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Polygamy legalized in Kenya for men

Kenya's president has signed into law a bill making it legal for men to marry as many women as they wish. The polygamy bill had come under fire from female parliamentarians.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured above) signed the law on Tuesday, legalizing polygamous unions for men. Women in Kenya, however, can only customarily marry one man.

The bill was passed in March. Male parliamentarians had argued that polygamous marriage was a man's right upheld both by African tradition and the Bible, but the legislation was heavily criticized by female lawmakers, who stormed out of the parliament in protest. They had argued that such a law could weaken marriages and impoverish families if a man had to divide his wealth among multiple wives and children.

While polygamous unions are common among many Kenyan ethnic groups, they had not been legally recognized until now. Lawyer Judy Thongori told the AP news agency that previous marriage laws, made under British colonial rule, did not understand the value systems of Kenya's indigenous populations.

Many of Kenya's 42 tribes do not put a limit on the number a wives a man can marry as long as he can afford to do so.

According to Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the country's Federation of Women Lawyers plans to #link:http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Uhuru-assents-to-law-allowing-polygamy/-/1056/2297540/-/uevrnk/-/index.html:mount a legal challenge#. The newspaper has #link:http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Editorial/Reject-law-that-will--discriminate-against-women-/-/440804/2253228/-/11p2k62z/-/index.html:spoken out against the new law#, writing in a March editorial that "the idea that men can marry as many wives as they wish does not sit well with the expectations of a modern society like ours."

Under the new law, men do not need consent from their current wives if they wish to marry again. It also rules out same-sex marriage, defining marriage - whether monogamous or polygamous - as being between man and woman.

jr/mkg (AP, dpa)

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