I do not support polygamy: Mensah-Williams

16 May 2016 19:20pm
WINDHOEK, 16 MAY (NAMPA) – The Chairperson of the National Council (NC), Margaret Mensah-Williams says she cannot support polygamy nor polyandry, “unlike what people believe.”
Mensah-Williams said this during her closing remarks in the NC after the second reading of the Presidential Remuneration and Other Benefits Bill on Monday.
Polyandry is the practice of one woman taking two or more husbands; while polygamy involves marriage with more than one spouse.
According to Mensah-Williams, polygamy is as stipulated in Namibia's customary law marriages, but is not recognised by civil law in Namibia and neither she nor any member of the NC can support laws not yet recognised in Parliament.
“This is due to the fact that we subscribe to the Convention on the Elimination of all Discriminating Laws against Women which Namibia signed and ratified, as well as the Maputo Protocol and SADC laws not yet recognised by Parliament,” she said.
One of the issues raised during the debate of the Bill last week was the reference made to a president's spouse because the Bill was not clear on whether more than one spouse in a customary marriage would also receive allowances, compared to a president's one spouse in a civil marriage.
Mensah-Williams informed the House last week that further research might have to be done before the Bill is passed to establish whether it would be accepted for a female Namibian president to have more than one spouse in a customary marriage.
“It was to get legal clarity on issues where some members needed clarity as it seems some clauses suggested or advocated for polygamy. Therefore, it was for these reasons that some members were opposed to it.
“This was in view of what will happen if the President in future will be a woman according to customary marriages law or married where they subscribe to polygamy,” she stated.
Mensah-Williams also indicated that during a debate on the Bill in the National Assembly (NA) in March 2016, a local daily reported that the Attorney-General indicated that polygamy is legal in Namibia.
“I am on record stating that I disagree with his interpretation because I am not a lawyer and refer to myself as a bush lawyer and that my interpretation, just as that of many learned lawyers, is that customary laws are not yet recognised in Namibia and we should legislate it still,” she said.
She said the NC would pass the Bill without amendments, because civil laws - even if any president is married according to customary law - have to adhere to the principal of civil law where only one wife or husband is recognised.
The Customary Law Marriages Bill is one of 40 Bills that will be tabled in Parliament this year.