I heard from the grapevine about a guy who married a girl, and the moment they arrived at their honeymoon destination, he bid her adieu, saying that he gave her the wedding she was harping on about but he was jumping ship on the marriage.
In this same grapevine, I heard of a guy who was working abroad while his wife lived in Kenya, and the guy is now so stressed about seeking legal separation from his wife after he caught her cheating.
We’re at that stage in our lives where most of everyone around me seems to have a husband/wife/baby/fiancé. I’m glad for them…but it makes me wonder whether they took that decision seriously.
Perhaps my cynicism is shining through, but I am not against marriage. I am all for it, when both parties are going into it with both eyes open, both of them understanding every nuance behind ‘til death do us part’, both of them mature enough to care about their SO’s (Significant Other’s) needs as they do their own.
Human beings are hopeful creatures – how else would we explain the number of children born every day when the world is in its current bad shape? So the notion of divorce hardly comes up during an engagements or on the honeymoon: the future is known, but it’s going to be great with your best friend/love of your life by your side. Absolutely nothing will go wrong when he/she has your back. There are no what ifs when you have hope.
Then something goes wrong. There are a lot of heated arguments. Someone cheats. Someone declares that they don’t love you anymore. Someone declares that they would rather be single than share personal space.
Suddenly, you’re seriously thinking about the D-word, and for purposes of this post, the D-word in Kenya.
Kenya’s Marriage Bill recognizes these marriages:
· Religious: Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and marriages “conducted in accordance with any other faith or other group as may be gazetted”
· Civil: monogamous, conducted by the Director or a Marriage officer
· Customary: potentially polygamous, conducted in accordance with the rites of any of the Kenyan communities
When the rites have been celebrated with family and friends, the hard part begins. When those hard times are too much to bear, marriages fall apart. It would be easy, except that the law can leave you caught up in legal wrangles for years. Some give up on legally demolishing their marriages, going on ahead to have domestic partnerships/customary marriages with other spouses, and creating families with them.
I don’t know whether to berate Kenyans for not being profoundly in the know about the consequences of a broken marriage, or to simply applaud them for being hopeful human beings.
I’m no lawyer, so I’ve had to do my research on the marriage laws in Kenya before writing this post. I wasn’t surprised that they are not easily accommodating about divorce.
The bottom line after reading the local legal websites mentioning divorce: Kenyans should quit thinking that marriage Kenya’s marriage laws are similar to those they see on movies and TV shows.
They are not, nowhere close, and you will suffer greatly trying to seek a way out. U.S. marriage laws are way, way, way above and beyond where ours currently are. Annul a marriage after 14 hours? Why not? Divorce after 46 years of marriage? Find the nearest lawyer!
In Kenya, you may just be haunted by your divorce proceedings for years to come. Some have carried the burden to their grave.
Firstly, a marriage is void – treated as if there was no marriage at all – if:
· one of you is underage;
· it’s a prohibited marriage relationship;
· either party is already married;
· by court order;
· consent parties not been freely given (fraud, coercion, mental disorder, influence of drugs, intoxication);
· either party is absent from the ceremony;
· parties permit unqualified person to celebrate the union;
· parties are mistaken about the identity of the other party; or
· parties enter the marriage for fraudulent purposes.
Partners in a marriage can declare it void if:
· marriage was not consummated;
· recurrent attacks of insanity;
· no notice was given;
· notice of objection not yet withdrawn;
· marriage conducted by an unlicensed person;
· minor procedural errors; or
· failure to register the marriage
I was surprised to learn that in Kenya you can enter into a prenuptial agreement. I applaud prenups; marriage is a contract in itself, and why not protect your assets even if you love your soulmate to death? So if you have property that you no want to share, without a prenup that clearly states the stipulations and consequences of a breakup, you could get screwed out of your hard-earned money and property.
Which brings me to the Matrimonial Property Act. The amended Act ascertains the distribution of matrimonial property come the dissolution of a marriage, the highlights relaying that:
· Property acquired or inherited before marriage is not part of matrimonial property,
· Property acquired jointly during the marriage is split two-ways,
· Property in polygamous marriages can be held separate from that of the other wives.
What baffles me is that men with multiple wives still overlook the necessity of writing a will, the widows and their children left fighting over property and inheritance.
Coming to the reasons for seeking divorce, you cannot cite “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for divorce like you’ve seen on U.S. television shows or read about in gossip rags dedicated to celebrities.
In Kenya, you can’t tell the judge that you simply fell out of love and can’t stand to see the stupid face your SO makes while they chew. Slashing all the legalese, the grounds for divorce in KE are:
· Insanity (politely put, of “unsound mind”)
· Adultery (and you may need diehard proof, because your SO may just stick to “it wasn’t me” and that may get you nowhere)
· …and the icing on the cake: except for super special cases, Kenyan law “prohibits the presentation of a divorce petition to a court of law before three years after the marriage”.
The law literally forces you to be married for three years before you can present a petition for divorce. Perhaps the courts understand that calling it quits after the hard first year doesn’t give a marriage enough time to build up…?
I think I lost my point in all this because now I’m suddenly thinking about polygamy.
Polygamy is not a new concept in Kenya, especially in customary marriages. Last month, Parliament passed a bill allowing men to marry multiple wives, without the consent of their first wife. As one Member of Parliament eloquently put it, [paraphrased], the first wife should assume that any woman the man brings home is the second wife, or the third wife, or the fourth wife.
Kenya’s Parliamentarians: dragging back the women’s movement to pre-independence.
That paraphrased nugget of wisdom is what led me to write this post. It was so disrespectful that it made me seriously consider what the light is at the end of this marriage tunnel if this is the kind of shit people have to put up with.
What started with hope and getting your happily ever after is condemned to you ending up bound by the law, hanging on to your marriage by the skin of your teeth due to unaffordable high legal costs, or the kids, or keeping up appearances, or a dozen other things that disagreeing couples can’t let go of.
Yay for Kenya’s marriages.