US reviewing Kenya’s polygamy law


The United States refrained on Wednesday from flatly opposing Kenya’s new law permitting men to have multiple wives.

“The legislation is quite complex and appears to include elements that represent steps forward toward greater equality for women,” a State Department official said.

“But the job is clearly a work in progress, and the legislation includes some provisions that codify existing traditional practices that disempower some women,” the official added.

The State Department is “still reviewing” the law signed by President Kenyatta on Tuesday, the official said in response to a query about the US view of the legislation.

“The United States supports equality and empowerment for women around the world and will continue to work with Kenya to realise fully the gender equality and rights embedded in Kenya’s constitution,” the official added in an email message.

Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers is supporting some aspects of the law and criticising others, CNN reported on Thursday.

The initiative is long overdue because polygamous unions were previously not regarded as equal to regular marriages, the federation said, according to CNN.

“We are happy with the law because finally all marriages are being treated equally,” Kenyan federation director Christine Ochieng is quoted as saying in the report.

Several female MPs had stormed out of Parliament in March in protest against the legislation.

They were reacting in part to male MPs’ success in removing from the bill a provision enabling a man’s first wife to veto her husband’s choice of additional spouses.

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