Anguish for Baringo girls as they are forcibly married off

Anguish for Baringo girls as they are forcibly married off
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The ambiguity of the marriage act on the legality of forced customary unions mars the possibility that the one that took place in Marigat, Baringo county on December 7 could be challenged.

Images published on Reuters, a news agency, show a young woman from the Pokot community being restrained from running away when she realised that she was to be married off without her knowledge.

Pokot traditions require that a husband to be goes to the ‘bride’s’ family home with a group of men to collect her, as one of the Reuters images also shows.

The girl’s family members said they did not inform her because they feared she would flee.

Her family had settled for 20 goats, 20 cows and three camels as dowry but the groom and his party arrived with only 10 cows, the rest set to be handed over on the morning of her departure to her new home.

Section 3 of Marriage Act 2014 which was assented into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta on April 29, states that:

(1) Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman whether in a monogamous or polygamous union and registered in accordance with this Act.

(2) Parties to a marriage have equal rights and obligations at the time of the marriage, during the marriage and at the dissolution of the marriage.

As such, the marriage can be challenged on the grounds that the girl was forced into it, supported by the requirement for all unions to be listed with the Registrar of Marriages.

Section 43 on marriages under customary law however states that

(I) A marriage under this Part shall be celebrated in accordance with the customs of the communities of one or both of the parties to the intended marriage.

This arguably declares valid the process that led to the marriage of the girl in question because it was in accordance with her community’s customs.

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