NAIROBI - A new government bill that allows cohabitating couples to register as married and scraps dowry for brides is inviting a storm of anger from Muslims and Christians in Kenya.
I think that bill is so barbaric and should be revoked," Swaleh Gang'ombe, Secretary General of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), told Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
The Kenyan government has passed a new bill for marriage in the eastern African country.
Under the bill, couples who have been living together for six months would be declared a husband and a wife.
The draft also proposes the cancellation of dowry for brides, which is mandatory in Islam.
"This is going to be a recipe of domestic violence as it will be so difficult to prove that you have stayed with someone for those six months, Gang'ombe said.
CIPK's South Coast chairperson Sheikh Amir Banda also criticized the bill.
"If you legalize marriages on excuse that couples have been together for six months, what happens if in every six months she will change men?
Such laws are not in any East African country and does it mean that the much publicized East African unity will be in disarray?
The Kenyan parliament is set to debate the proposed bill in the coming few days.
Marriage in Islam is of utmost importance as it is upon the lawful union of a man and a woman that society grows strong and that moral is preserved.
There are nearly ten million Muslims in Kenya, which has a population of 36 million.
Muslims make up nearly 98 percent of the communities of the North Eastern Province.
Kenyan Muslim leaders also denounced the proposal of scrapping the dowry paid to the bride.
"Every religion has its own law and order and it will be against those rights and privileges if some few individual will decide for many in something that affects everyone's rights, Banda said.
Religiously and culturally it's wrong if dowry will not be paid.
The proposed marriage bill has already drawn a strong opposition from Christian leaders in Kenya.
"It is the worst law we have had as churches in Kenya, said the Rev. Wellington Mutiso, the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, according to All Africa website.
The Rev. Vincent Wambugu, general secretary of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, an umbrella group of Catholic bishops, warned that the passage of the bill would undermine marriage in the country.
Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa echoes a similar warning."This (cohabitation) is likely to be abused with the underage being taken advantage of. It will be violated.