In Summary
  • The problem she wants dealt with is that of deadbeat fathers who don’t take care of the children they have outside marriage. Yet such deadbeats are everywhere even in marriages.
  • Gathoni wouldn’t know that children can be raised happy without their parents being married at all, whether monogamously or polygamously.
  • She should start by demanding stronger enforcement of the Children’s Act (2002) and Article 53 of the Constitution (2010) which will cushion the “illegitimate” children she feels for most.

Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba has a knack for controversy. Her comments last year about how she felt seriously underpaid as an MP mostly attracted ridicule. However, it is her latest advocacy for polygamy that has really churned the waters in her community – and even beyond.

As I understood her, her point was that there are too many broken or single mother families where children are growing up without a father figure. Fathers must ensure they bring up the children they bear from mpango wa kandos, even if that means marrying the mothers of these offspring. Social problems like street children, crime and drug and alcohol abuse are breeding from there.


Gathoni is being disruptive, but more in the sense of calling for self-reflection rather than nagging. In case she didn’t know, polygamy (or what wasomi call polygyny), is perfectly legal in Kenya, as long as you don’t contract it the Christian way. The Church is a big barrier, but not the only one. The economic cost of bringing up a polygamous family is overwhelming these days. But the biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is the way the culture has changed over the years. To “modern” types, there is a kind of social stench the practice carries that is unattractive, sort of like the stigma with FGM. You no longer impress anybody when you parade a harem of wives. Legal or not, polygamy is seriously losing ground culturally.


Gathoni’s biggest foes, ironically, are her own womenfolk. Women of my mother’s age, who believe monogamy is God-ordained, would worry she is suffering from something and would pray for her. The modern, aspirational lady is more hostile. Those happily settled in monogamous marriages find her idea dangerous. If my husband takes another wife, they like to insist, I will take a walk. Single, professional women consider her an old-fashioned throwback for believing a woman with children cannot lead a fulfilling life without the entanglement of a husband. Feminists, for their part, think of her as a pitiable nuisance. One of them once gave me a mouthful for suggesting that the West has double standards when it advocates homosexual tolerance across the world yet it outlaws polygamy. I was taken through the paces of how polygamy is an “instrument of patriarchy” meant to manipulate and oppress women.


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