A Kenyan High Court judge has ruled that being a housewife should be considered a full-time job, in a landmark judgement that’s already generating heated debate in the country. The judge, Ms Teresia Matheka, who was presiding over a matrimonial property dispute, said it was unfair for courts to rule that housewives have no significant contribution to the financial progression of a family.
Justice Matheka made the statements in her ruling in a case where a divorced lady sought to have their family property sold and the money shared equally between her and her ex-husband. She ruled that the property be sold and money shared equally, or one of the spouses buy out the other party by paying half the value of the property that the party is entitled to.
There were mixed reactions from across section of Kenyans after the ruling with some bordering on satire, but the implications of the ruling are yet to sink in. It in effect mean that husbands of jobless stay-at-home wives could be compelled to pay their spouses a salary for taking care of children and the home.
Justice Matheka argued that housewives offer full-time services at home and should not regard themselves as jobless. She further said it was unfair to use visible income and the mindset that one has to dig deep into their pockets in marriage to evaluate their financial value.
“It is easy for the spouse working away from home and sending money to lay claim to the whole property purchased and developed with that money by the spouse staying at home and taking care of the children and the family. That spouse will be heard saying that the other one was not employed so they did not contribute anything,” she said.
“Raising children is a full-time job that families pay a person to do as well as cooking and cleaning. Hence, for a woman in employment who has to balance childbearing and rearing this contribution must be considered.”
In a society where finances are a highly personalised affair implementing the ruling in a normal marriage setting is easier said than done. Sticky points would be determining how much a housewife should be paid given that households chores and husband incomes are as diversify as the marriages themselves.
Second, would the rule apply in a case where the wife is working while the husband stays at home to take care of the family?
The judge also urged her counterparts to consider the nine months of pregnancy when presiding over cases of matrimonial disputes. She said carrying a pregnancy is equivalent to working, noting that some couples have lately resorted to hiring surrogate mothers to bear children for them.
Here are some reactions from Kenyans online
Polycarp Hinga: “What Matheka said is well and good, but my question is, who is going to pay?”
John Kiiru: “The government should hear this and start paying housewives.”
Elena Gachomo: “It is time I get married. My husband will be my employer.”
Stephen King: “I pay the dowry then take an employee in my house?”
Baba Felicia: “She made the ruling according to how she would like to be treated, there is no such law.”
Lilian Irungu: “The judge should let us get married first then declare that. We shall revisit that decree.”
TabbyRose Wanja: “Who wants to marry me? I will stay home. How much will you pay me per month?”
Gakahu Kinyua: “Women do fall for this, KRA will be on your necks henceforth.”