Ugandans React to Marriage, Divorce Bill


Parliament (file photo): Survey conducted by Sunday Vision indicates citizens are opposed to the marriage and divorce bill.

A survey conducted by Sunday Vision asking carefully selected MPs from all the regions of the country has established that majority of the citizens have rejected the Marriage and Divorce Bill. Here, the MPs share their personal views and those of their constituents about the contentious law.

Jesca Abiku (Adjuman woman MP)

People in my constituency have rejected the Bill because they think the contentious issues are not tallying with our cultural values. We need to educate our children to understand our cultural values, norms and traditions. They think this Bill is one of those laws imported from the western countries.

Phyllis Chemutai (Kapchorwa woman MP)

They are very negative about the Bill. They don't want to even hear about it. They want us to stick to the traditional way of resolving marriage issues. My positional position is that I will go with what my people are saying because I am in parliament to represent their views.

Yokasi Bihande Bwambale ( Bukoto County East)

According to my people, the Bill is uncalled for. You cannot legislate on culture. Among the Bakonjo, we don't have cohabitation. It is a big taboo. It is a big taboo to stay with a girl when her parents have not allowed you.

When somebody cannot afford bride price, he is only required to bring a hoe and a blanket to the parents and they give him permission to marry the girl. I don't know who came up with that wild Bill. It is for the elite women in Kampala. The existing laws are enough.

Victoria Businge (Kabalore woman MP)

People have not yet understood the Bill. The majority were not in for the Bill. Many of them said the Bill is not more important than their needs of services by government. They want respect for culture. My position is that we don't need to rush the Bill.

We need deeper consultations and deeper sensitization so that our people make informed positions. There are so many priorities in the NRM manifesto which people want government to give priority.

Margret Komuhangi (Nakasongola woman MP)

I had a radio program for three hours during which I explained the clauses in the Bill to my people and all the comments I got were positive in support of the Bill. I explained to them that the existing laws are colonial laws which we need to repeal.

Robinah Nabbanja (Kibaale woman MP)

Majority are opposed to it. In fact there is a meeting a convened where I was seriously blasted. They wondered why parliament and government should waste time on this Bill where there are more pertinent services affecting their lives which are not available.

Their general view is that the Bill should be shelved and priority be given to public services. My view is certainly the general view of my constituency.

Patrick Nsanja (Ntenjeru county South MP)

Majority of the female support the Bill while the male are opposed to it. I have been troubled with explaining it to the people. In totality, they are opposed to the Bill. But as a lawyer, I have to promote and protect human rights. The Bill should therefore be put aside for further consultations. Even some MPs don't know what is in the Bill.

Wafula Oguttu (Bukhooli central)

I had 31 rallies and in all these rallies they rejected the Bill. They don't want it. They think it is for the educated women in Kampala. They think the Bill violates their cultural norms. They think it will commercialize marriage and also cause instabilities in marriages. They think we should have separate laws for Christian marriages and customary marriages.

Personally, I think the Bill is for the educated women. It has potential to create instabilities in marriages. They want government to give priority to constructing roads, providing drugs in hospitals, and improve their welfare.

Milton Muwuma (Kigulu South)

In all the four sub-counties in my constituency, the Bill is unpopular and they even challenged the timing. They said among the things they sent us do, that Bill is not a priority. They want us to improve their household income, fix roads, provide affordable electricity and water.

They said marriage issues should be left to the religious leaders to handle. They voted in unison saying the Bill should be shelved until further notice.

Gen. Elly Tumwine (UPDF MP)

I am glad that this matter is being debated countrywide involving both men and women. It touches the family which is the most important unit of any society. I have been in the countryside and I realized people are scared about the Bill.

Therefore, where there is a big number of people who are not sure of where the law will take them, we need to go slow. Even without that law, we have registered so many achievements in women emancipation.

Women have been gaining their rights. It is not good to legislate for change. Positive change is good but you cannot force it.

Stephen Tashobya (Kajara County)

Some support the Bill while others are opposed to it. They think we are imposing on them western culture. Some think if it is to continue, issues to do with sharing property, cohabitation, religion (divorce) and customs (bride price) should be removed from the Bill.

Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo County)

They don't want it at all. They think it is introducing the western culture and commercializing marriage. It is against our cultural and religious values. Christians should be allowed to make their own law just as government has allowed Muslims to have their own law.

Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum woman MP)

Men have rejected the Bill but women want the Bill to be amended to cater for traditional values. Generally, Acholi people want to retain the customary set up of marriage. They want the law to re-enforce customary laws.

Sarah Kayaga (Manafwa woman MP)

They have mixed views about the Bill. Many believe it is an importation of western culture. I told them customary and Christian marriages are catered for in the Bill. Many want cohabitation out of the Bill but it was realized that it is the most prevalent in the society. My position is that we pass the Bill with some amendments taking into account of religious and cultural concerns.

Rosemary Seninde Nansubuga (Wakiso)

I find it difficult to support the Bill. Some sections are controversial. In my culture we say we don't bring bed room matters into the public. The section of marital rape requires women to bring the matter to court but how can this be discussed in public. Who are the witnesses?

I think it might be hard to implement this law. I am Christian and I don't cohabitation. We might encourage people to cohabit. It is difficult to ignore cohabitation because many people are cohabiting.

My constituents have questioned sections of the Bill. First of all they ask whether the Bill is a priority. They say they have pressing problems and the Bill is not an urgent problem.

Some women say we are planning to break their marriages. Some men we are stopping them from marrying because marriage is going to become difficult. Some women fear if we recognize cohabitation some men who have cohabitated with them for long may abandon them and wed other women in church.

Rita Ronah Ninsiima (Kabale)

I have withdrawn my support for the Bill since my constituents do not support it. Originally I was supporting it because I thought it would help unemployed graduates get married especially when the bride price is not in place.

Some of my colleagues in Parliament are not supporting and they criticize those who are not married from talking about the Bill. Some of us who are not married have left it to the married people.

My constituents do not support the Bill. They are not happy with the title of the Bill they say it makes it look like marriage has to end in divorce which they say is not right.

My constituents say if we bring in the issue of sharing property equally between men and women, then some women are likely to marry for property. People say women will get multiple partners for the sake of property. People say bride price should not be removed because if it is removed girls will not be respected in marriage.

Sanjay Tanna (Tororo Municipality)

It is a good Bill. We need it for society for now and for future generations. We should pass it with amendments. We should reconcile the views of the Churches and that of the common man which is not easy. The Churches don't want divorce and don't want cohabitation to be recognized at the time of divorce. In my constituency the males are opposed to it.

But when you explain they are convinced that the Bill is necessary. The females are happy with the Bill. The Churches are against it; they say Canon Law does not permit divorce and separation.

The Church says married people are only separated by death. The Churches say by giving women cohabiting rights it is encouraging polygamy.

The time given for consultation is very little. When we educate people they appreciate many sections of the Bill exist in law like the Divorce Act all we are trying to do is refine and put them together.

Benson Obua-Ogwal (Moroto County)

I don't support some aspects of the Bill like cohabitation. The Bill seems to make marriage mechanical. You have to enter it as if it is a contract before- hand. The Bill should not create a window for people to do away with age old traditions.

It creates leverage for a person to leave a marriage whenever they feel like. Some my constituents have rejected the Bill. The way it was introduced has raised a lot of tempers and emotions. They feel the Bill is going to make marriage cheap and make breaking up easy.

The Bill has become political. There are religious and cultural norms which people are against. There are age old traditions you can't just throw away.

Mujuni Vincent Kyamadidi (Rwampara MP)

This bill has some good clauses, which I support. But there are also controversial ones which even my electorate want deleted out. For instance, the one on conjugal rights is so controversial.

The cohabitation should only provide legal mechanisms in case of a disagreement between the couple but not be treated as if it is a form of marriage. Bride Price should only be left as one's culture demands.

Baba Diri Margaret (Woman MP Koboko district)

I support the bill 100%. We have come a long way. The laws we have are of decades ago. Women have suffered too much. Look at dowry men think because they have purchased you, they will treat you the way they want as you work like a donkey.

For cohabiting, we have agreed that the clause will be scrapped off and be harmonized separately. For property sharing, I do not see why men are worried. If you have acquired property before marriage, it is yours.

We are talking about property that is acquired when you are married. Marital rape is a big issue. Some men's private parts have been chopped off, when chaos ensues. So let us support this bill.

Betty Amongi (Oyam South)

I support the bill; it is in line with the emerging challenges in the country. People think it's a new law but this is not the case. The Bill is reforming the current existing laws on marriage and divorce which were adopted way back in 1904.

In fact some provisions of in the current Divorce Act and the Marriage Act were nullified by the Constitutional Court ruling petition because they were inconsistent. For instance in Section 4(1) of the current Divorce Act (Cap 249) is inconsistent with articles 21(1) and 2 and 31(1) and 6 of the 1995 Constitution which are necessary reforms in the current law.

So the law will help us to move forward.

Jacqueline Amongin (Woman representative for Ngora district)

I do not support the cohabitation clause. Our view as women is that we should have a separate clause on it, because it is not a form of marriage. My worry is that if we legalise it, what we are advocating for? If a man can pick you today, he will move on and pick another woman the next day.

Kahinda Otafiire, Justice Minister

I support the bill. We have kept it for a very long time and most of the things being contested – like cohabitation – are a reality. We cannot burry out heads in the sand. Let the bill be passed once and for all.

Mohammed Nsereko, Kampala central MP

From the start, my main contention of this bill is that the grounds for dissolution of marriage might deter people from getting married. The Bill focuses on sharing assets but forgets that people have huge liabilities (debts) as well. What happens to the liabilities? If a man has a liability of billions of money, they should share it with the woman.

John Amos Okot (Agago country)

My major problem with this bill is cohabitating. It is as if we are equating cohabiting to a marriage, yet it is illegal under the Penal Code. Besides, in Christianity, cohabiting is a sin. It is fornication; we should not promote sinful acts. Those cohabiting should be encouraged to formalise their relationships.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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