Polygamy is illegal across the western world..
Polygamy is illegal across the western world.. Flickr/Creative Common

Female politicians in Kenya have stormed out of Parliament following the passing of a bill that will make polygamy legal under civil law, as it already is under customary law in the African country.

Under the bill, men will now be able to marry as many wives as they wish, though women will only be allowed to marry one man, as before.

Samuel Chepkong'a, chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, explained: "Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you're coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife."

Any lady you bring home is your wife
Samuel Chepkong'a

Parliamentary majority leader Aden Duale explained he was voting in favour of polygamy because as a Muslim it was part of his Islamic faith.

Duale suggested Christians could also justify polygamy by studying the Bible: "I want my Christian brothers top read the Old Testament – King David and King Solomon never consulted anybody to marry a second wife."

However, the decision to pass the bill prompted an angry response from some of the country's 69 female MPs, around 30 of whom stormed out of the chamber.

Soipan Tuya
Soipan Tuya: men should inform their wife there might be another on way Youtube

Narok County representative Soipan Tuya said men should at least inform their first wife that there might be another on the way.

"If you are the man of the house, and you choose to bring in another party – and they may be two or three – I think it behoves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know," she said.

Despite the controversial bill passing through parliament, other proposals were dropped. These included plans to end the payment of "bride prices" and ones to ensure equality of property and inheritance rights. In Kenya women are only entitled to 30% of matrimonial property in the event of divorce or the death of a husband.

Also dropped were proposals to recognise so-called "come-we-stay" relationships, where couples co-habit but do not marry, after six months. If passed that law would have allowed women to receive maintenance for herself and her children in the event of the man leaving the family home.

Polygamy is illegal in most western countries but remains legal in some African and Asian countries. Mormons in the United States are no longer allowed to practise monogamy legally but some Muslims in the US are believed to be in polygamous relationships.