Churches Condemn Kenya’s Polygamy Bill as Unbiblical, But Christian Politicians Push It Through

Polygamy is common among traditional communities in Kenya, as well as among the country’s Muslim community. Photograph: Hermin Utomo/Alamy
Polygamy is common among traditional communities in Kenya, as well as among the country’s Muslim community. Photograph: Hermin Utomo/Alamy

Kenyans have many approaches to marriage, and in March their government consolidated types under one law that went into effect this week. One change has drawn the lion’s share of attention: legalizing polygamy for men—even if the first wife protests.

Africa has a so-called “polygamy belt” that stretches from Senegal to Tanzania. A 2009 government survey indicated that 13 percent of Kenyan women were in polygamous relationships.

The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK)says the law will erode recent gains against HIV, and lead to more divorces and court fights over inheritances. “We are promoting an old practice in a modern context, which is like putting new wine in an old wineskin,” said David Oginde, leader of Christ Is the Answer Ministries. “It will burst.”

But Samuel Chepkonga, former chair of Kenya’s Scripture Union, is among the Christian lawmakers who helped Muslim politicians pass the bill. He even led the effort to remove a clause that let a woman veto her husband’s effort to take another wife.

“Not all Kenyans are Christians,” said Ken Okoth, a Christian politician who represents Kibera, a poor, largely Muslim community on the edge of Nairobi. “If church leaders want to completely outlaw polygamy, they should propose a bill. [But] that’s impossible under our constitution.” Approximately 4 in 5 Kenyans are Christians, but that leaves 4 million Muslims who tolerate polygamy.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Moses Wasamu in Nairobi, Kenya

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