Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma is set to table a new bill seeking to have unmarried magistrates barred from handling family cases involving children.
Kaluma, who wants the Children Act amended, argues that magistrates who are not married lack experience in family matters hence unfit to hear such cases.
Kaluma appeared before the National Assembly Labor and Social Welfare Committee on Thursday to defend his proposed bill. He said cases involving children should only be handled by magistrates with experience in family matters.
“We need people who are mature and have run families, people who are settled and know that every decision they make can destroy the life of a child completely,” said Kaluna, who has in the past battled a protracted child support case.
Kaluma acknowledged that there is a shortage of magistrates in the country. For that reason, he said the only unmarried magistrates who should preside over children cases are those of the senior cadre.
Kaluma, an attorney, lamented that low-cadre magistrates presiding over children cases have been making unpopular orders that work against the interest of the child, hence affecting their future.
“Some of these weird orders on child custody are issued by these single magistrates who just [recently] graduated from the law school,” Kaluma said.
Kaluma gave an example of a 10-year-old girl who broke into tears soon after a Mwingi magistrate court ruled in favor of her mother in a child custody case in January this year. The girl was disappointed by the court's decision to transfer her from her father's custody.
Kaluma will proceed to publish his proposals after the committee adopted them on Thursday. Kaluma also seeks to introduce changes to the Children Act to bestow equal responsibility for the custody of a child in both the mother and the father whether they are married or not.
“The Bill provides that neither the father nor the mother of the child shall have a superior right or claim against the other in the exercise of such parental responsibility,” reads the Bill.
“The Bill amends section 24 of the principal Act to make it mandatory for the father and mother of a child born to have parental responsibility of the child whether the parents were married at the time the child was being born or did not subsequently get married.”