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People's Views on the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009

Miria Matembe-Women and Human Rights Activist

The resurrection of the Marriage and Divorce Bill; back to the floor of parliament ( formerly Domestic Relations bill) indicates how critical the institution of family and marriage is to Ugandans. This is the fourth time the Bill is tabled in Parliament for debate amidst controversies. This Bill was created form the Domestic Relations Bill and repackaged as a strategy to have it passed in phases. The Domestic Violence Act is part of the DR Bill that was passed in 2007. The purpose of the Bill is to reform the law relating to marriage and divorce, to provide for the types of recognized marriages in Uganda and marital rights and duties.

The contentious clauses are those on property rights, marital rape and Cohabitation. Parliament is currently on recess to consult their constituents on the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

These are some of the comments from various stakeholders

*President Yoweri Museveni is not fully convinced that in its current status, the bill will provide a good family law, and insists some of the provisions therein if not thought out well, may cause disharmony in society. President Yoweri Museveni has expressed his support for the Marriage and Divorce Bill, but suggests some “crucial” amendments. Museveni also agreed with the team on grounds of marital rape, saying it was criminal for someone to rape a wife, but they agreed to make the clause more focused.

* Speaker of Parliament , Hon. Rebecca Kadaga said, women should be given a share of property when they divorce with their men. "There is no way we are going to avoid this, how can you stay with a man for over 30 years and you are chased away without anything", Kadaga wondered.

*The male youth member of Parliament for Eastern region; Hon. Ogwang “ I bet you I am going to trash that Bill, we don’t need it all”.

*Miria Matembe (woman activist) remarked “To me, you cannot say you are going to consult the very people (men) who have been inflicting pain on the women”. She likened this situation to asking a dog if you can slaughter a cow for it. To the religious leaders, she had no kind words. She lamented, “sixty percent of all couples in this country are cohabiting. So where has the church been. It means they have not played their part. My advise to the church leaders is for them to aggressively mobilizes these couples cohabiting and entice them to wed”. The former ethics and integrity minister and outspoken activist, Maria Matembe has attacked religious leaders and accused them of being hypocrites over the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

*“For religious leaders to come out and say that they were not consulted about the marriage and Divorce bill is really unfair to this country. “We started with religious leaders. For them to come out and say they were not consulted is a big lie because we have consulted them all the time.” Hon. Matembe noted. “Religious leaders should also get to know that it’s not their role to make laws of this country. They don’t have any right to stop the government to make laws to protect her citizens. Their responsibility in this bill is to find the root cause of cohabitation in families but not to stop the bill to be passed” She added. “You didn’t do your work properly of preaching people about marriage,the reason why people slipped from your hands and started cohabiting. some people cohabit because marriage is expensive” She stressed.

* Meanwhile Matembe has criticized all legislators who do not support the marriage and Divorce bill. She said that all MPs who do not support this bill don’t deserve to be in parliament. Matembe explains that the marriage and Divorce bill is intended to protect the families not breaking marriages.

*The Archbishop of the church of Uganda ,Stanley Ntagali cautioned Parliament against rushing to pass the Marriage and Divorce Bill since they have not been comprehensively consulted. “Marriage is a foundation of unity in our country. If it is passed carelessly, we might get problems in future. The cohabitation clause should not even have surfaced anywhere in the Bill because it has never been a type of marriage”, Archbishop Ntagali stressed.

Parliament last week granted a two weeks holiday to MPs to consult their voters about the marriage and Divorce bill before it’s passed into law.

Parliament has gone on recess to consult their constituents over the M&D Bill. This is what some say:

* Residents of Kyegegwa district want the clauses on cohabitation in the Marriage and Divorce Bill deleted ( Clause 114,155 and clause 155(1).They also said it is also dificult to prove that someone has forced the partner into intimacy .

* Residents of Kigulu South (Iganga district) told the area MP Milton Muwuma that parliament should not be attempted at any single moment to pass marriage and divorce bill. that they didn’t send him in parliament to pass that confused bill to distract their families. “My voter said that if parliament doesn’t have what to do, its better I go back and look after my family than getting involved in passing controversial bill,” he added.

Women activists and rights organizations
*‘We have fought a huge battle with bill, and almost eliminated half of its original clauses to convince members that it was time to get it passed,” said Hon. Betty Amongi, chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association .

*"Men should be aware that while they accumulate property, women play an important role through their domestic work" - Betty Amongi, Apac District Woman MP

*Ketra Nassozi, owner of a phone accessories kiosk in Kalerwe confessed never to have heard about the Marriage and Divorce Bill adding that those are matters concerning only the educated people and not her.

*“There are complex things I will freely explain to my ssenga and be sure of solutions amicably, yet the same issues I can’t put across in the face of a magistrate” added Mukisa Ruth in her food kiosk in Makerere Kikoni.

*Most male respondents cursed the bill for discouraging reconciliation which might imply that any mild family brawl could at anytime culminate into a divorce, sometimes victimizing innocent family members especially children.Mrs. Rita Achilo Exucutive Director Uganda Womens Network dismisses as baseless. She said “Uganda is a secular state therefore cannot legislate basing or different religious and cultural doctrines”.

*Odonga Otto, Aruu county MP, argues that for couples who stay for 10-15 years without marriage, it would be unfair for the woman to be forced to walk out without any property just because they are not married. MP Odonga Otto supported calls to have cohabiting partners benefit in case of dissolution where they cite irreconcilable differences.
“I think it is not fair for a man to stay with a woman for ten years and walk away from the marriage with nothing. He says marriage should not be mechanical,” he told the house.

*In Dokolo District, women have threatened to strip naked in protest if the Bill is passed into law. The women made the remarks during a consultative meeting organised by the Woman MP, Ms Cecilia Ogwal, and Dokolo constituency legislator Felix Okot Ogong.

* Ms Mary Oluk, the LC5 councillor for Agwata Sub-county, said: “The bill has failed to address the most biting issues on how best marriages can be protected, but it is instead looking at how properties can be shared.The Bill would lead to break up of marriages.

*Ms Grace Otim from Kwera Sub-county said: “Whoever supports the Bill, will never be welcomed in the entire Lango region.”

*Dokolo youth Chairperson- Moses Olet said the Bill would perpetuate sexual promiscuity.

*The district chairperson, Dokolo District; Mr John Baptist Okello Okello, said the Bill undermines customary marriages. “It may be true that there are areas that can be reformed, but the Bill is inciting failures in marriages. The Bill is inciting people not to have peace in their marriages and as such, we as leaders cannot support it,” he said.

*Resident of Bungokho South constituency (Mbale District) told their MP, Mr Micheal Gafabusa Werikhe, that bride price should not be eliminated. They also said bride price should be refunded in case of divorce.

*“The so-called Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009 is being fronted by activists who totally failed in their marriages. This Bill should be totally rejected for God’s sake,” Mr Jacob Opolot, the Mt Elgon region police commander, said. He said the Bill is copied from Western cultures which are not applicable in Uganda.

*Hon. Alex Napokoli, a councillor representing Bumasikye Sub-county, said: “Sharing of family assets would be right but this should depend entirely on contributions by both parties.”

*In Moyo District, residents of Obongi County said during a consultative meeting that the Bill was against cultural and religious norms that ensure stability of marriages.

*Oyam district woman MP Alum Santa Ogwang survived the wrath of angry constituents. “Hon member, if you have come here to teach us about your arrogant law, we are not ready to listen to you at all. We don’t want your Bill here because we are contented with our traditional marriages. That Bill should not cross Karuma falls. It should be passed for the people of Kampala” One angry resident said.

*“Our traditional marriage system is very adequate. It caters for everything as far as marriage is concerned. We respect it so much. We would like to warn you as our MP that we didn’t send you to parliament to talk about controversial matters on our behalf. We shall even not send you back in parliament come 2016 if you can’t present issues affecting us in parliament like the bad roads, poor education, lack of drugs in hospitals among others”

Overall, the direction the Marriage and Divorce Bill is taking will not generate consensus. Like Hon. Miria Matembe said, we can not consult those who perpetuate abuse of women. Supporters of the Bill need to urgently craft another strategy to have the Bill passed such as change its name, remove/improve some contentious clauses such as cohabitation, educate the grassroots.

I'm really worried that this Bill is three steps taken back words with the grassroot consultations.It was not necessary.

this extracts are collected from various media (newspapers and websites)


moses's picture

domestic bill

The bill just needs be to reversed in order to remove all the sentiments which cause arguments and also make people understand the bill very well.most of the people mostly in rural areas didn't know knew about bill.even those who heard knowledge about it,there interpretation was false they not telling the masses the key issues in the bill and hence leading to its failure to be passed but its a good bill as far as marriage is concerned.

ikirimat's picture

Thank you Moses, I am

Thank you Moses,
I am informed that the team is reverting to the existing marriage Act and Divorce Act written in 1950s or 60s to see how ammendaments can be done.While the new MADB is under scrutiny. Otherwise our Honourable legislators did a deservice to the citizens as you rightly pointed out.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

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