By: Yossa Immaculate Daisy
First tabled on the floor of parliament in 2009, the bill was shelved citing “time constraints” and “controversial” clauses in the bill by sections of the public who said it needed re-examination. However, many women will have something to smile about when this bill is finally passed into law. Currently retabled in parliament, the bill intends to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for the types of recognized marriages inUganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, rights of parties on dissolution of marriage and related matters. The intention is to address the gender issues therein that affect family and married women lives. Other key issues the bill highlights are:
- Abolition of widow inheritance which had become an acceptable practice among many tribes in the country. Yet, this practice not only abused the freedom of such women to choose freely the person of their choice with whom to relate but also put their lives at risk of acquiring diseases especially HIV/AIDS.
- Bride price made optional. In a society where almost all cultures and tribes value and require a payment of bride price set by the family of the woman. The practice has over the years become a source of domestic violence in families in which women are beaten and treated with no respect because of the belief and idea that she is “property” of the man because she was “bought”. Making it optional therefore and its purpose reviewed would contribute to reducing on the incidences of violence against women brought about by payment of this bride price.
When publicized in 2009, it was received with widespread approval as well as criticism at the same time by different people. For the latter, moral and cultural issues needed to be protected while the former viewed the bill as the best thing that could save the Ugandan woman from oppression in marriage and go along way to promote and protect her rights as a woman. There were also those sections of the population who just needed to be sensitized about the bill, its provisions and overall intentions.
In a patriarchical society that Uganda still is, protection of women continues to be a necessity for their own advancement and their families. The bill would go along way to curb and subsequently prevent domestic violence against women. This bill once made law would also complement the already existing domestic violence act, in a country where over 60% of women have been subjected to domestic physical abuse and over 30% suffered from sexual abuse according to research by the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. The bill I believe therefore intends to protect women and their rights, build stronger families and facilitate peaceful co-existence between women and men.