Why The Proposed Marriage Bill Is A Problem For The Family Unit

The Member of Parliament for Suna West, Francis Masara recently introduced into Parliament the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2023. The Bill is meant to amend the Marriage Act 2014 to make it easier for couples to divorce.

The following is a quick summary of the amendments made:

  • The Bill inserts a new section in the Marriage Act 2014. It essentially says that married people can ask the court to end their marriage if they both agree that they don’t want to be together anymore. This is called divorce by mutual consent. The new section adds that the Court can only end the marriage if it is sure that there was no coercion and that the children’s needs have been adequately taken care of.
  • The Bill amends the Marriage Act 2014 by removing the requirement that the married couple has to have lived apart for at least three years before asking for a divorce. It also removes the rule that a spouse must prove matrimonial fault like adultery, cruelty or desertion before asking for a divorce on those grounds.
  • The Bill amends the section of the Marriage Act 2014 which talks about the consequences of a marriage ending. Essentially, it now says that the divorcing couple can write down how they want to share their things, how much money they will give each other, and who will take care of their children before or after they ask for a divorce by mutual consent.
  • The Bill amends the section of the Marriage Act 2014 that talks about the reconciliation efforts required before the marriage is ended. It basically states that the couple seeking a divorce by mutual consent must first go to counseling before and after they sign the agreement document. The counselor must be trained and registered by a relevant professional body.
  • The Bill amends the section of the Marriage Act 2014 that talks about the appeals process if any. IT basically says that any married person who has asked for a divorce by mutual consent can appeal to the High Court within thirty days from the date of the decision on anything related to their agreement or their children’s well-being.

The author of the Bill said that he wanted a more humane and progressive way for couples to end unhappy and unhealthy marriages. The MP felt that the current law forces couples to remain in marriages that can be abusive, violent and incompatible. He added that the autonomy and dignity of couples to choose whether or not they wanted to remain together should be respected and protected.

As Christians, the idea of making divorce easier should not be easily accepted. There is a direct quote from Scripture (Malachi 2:16) where it states that God hates divorce. We understand that marriage is God’s idea and that it is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. It is a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has reported a steady increase in the number of divorces in Kenya. In 2015, the divorce rate was at 10% and by 2020, it was almost 18%. That is not a good trend. Strong family units are the bedrock of a strong society.  Families provide emotional and psychological security, socialization, procreation, and humanitarian functions for their members and society in general.  Strong families foster a sense of belonging, teach social skills and instill values. Divorce negatively affects the welfare and development of children, who are the most vulnerable victims of divorce. Children who experience divorce often suffer from emotional trauma, psychological distress, behavioral problems, academic difficulties and social isolation.

This Bill is currently (at the time of writing of this article) at the first reading stage in the National Assembly. It is yet to be debated or passed by the house. The author may be well intended, but in trying to fix the perceived problems with the current marriage bill, he should be careful not to undermine the importance and sanctity of marriage as an institution.

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