Marriage and Divorce Bill: Men Champions Speak out

Published By UNNGOF |  June 24, 2013

We Must Walk the Talk of Women’s Emancipation!

4thApril 2013

This press conference has been organized to provide space for the male human rights activists to share their views on the proposed Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009, formerly the Domestic Relations Bill (DRB). This is in recognition of the fact that the biggest challenge for gender equality, particularly in marriage and family matters remains patriarchy which is grounded in deep rooted culture that subordinates women to men. Further, while this bill has been unfairly branded as a women activist only affair, it is important that the voices of men come out strongly to speak out on the issues in the bill that are being developed for the whole society.

We are heavily disappointed with the quality of current debates and the media’s engagement in deliberate misinformation of the masses. The majority of the MPs have trivialised this bill but we recognize the efforts of those that have gallantly supported it. We are also saddened by Government’s behaviour that is completely contradictory to its earlier position.

Imperatives for Reform: Why we need the Marriage and Divorce Bill!
There are various compelling reasons for urgent reforms in the Ugandan family law regime to reflect present day family realities.

First, the need is based on the idea that the law be reviewed regularly to keep in conformity with real life as expressed by the ever changing and increasingly challenging social, economic and cultural trends. It is these challenges that demand a responsive adjustment in the responsibility in institutions of marriage and family. Within the political context, one of the factors that underpin family law is the heritage of gender inequality which, reforms in marriage laws, aim at addressing to create a normative standard of equality of parties including the children in the marriage. The reality is that the Ugandan laws on family are clearly outdated and represent the pre-dominant thinking of a bygone era.

The second need for reforms is the existence of aspects of laws, practices and customs some of which have the effect of impairing the exercise by women and men of their rights, powers and duties on an equal basis in marriage and upon dissolution of marriage in line with the Constitution. The reform of marriage laws is thus aimed at ensuring equality, non discrimination, justice and rights in marriage and upon dissolution of marriage. In reality, society has moved ahead of these laws, even as they desperately, and in futility, try to hold it back. The proposed Marriage and Divorce Bill is thus an attempt to capture the foregoing concerns.

Therefore, We, the Male Champions of the Marriage and Divorce Bill, today thought it prudent to state the truth, correct and put right those misconceptions by clearly expressing the Bill’s position:

  1. The Marriage Bill is a consolidated law on domestic matters that upholds the institution of marriage; offers protection to married people; promotes fairness to achieve social justice
  2. The Bill provides for requirements of a valid marriage in line with the Constitution. These include age and consent of parties intending to marry
  3. The Bill spells out the rights and responsibilities of married people. It provides for the duty of both parents to care for and bring up their children
  4. The Bill provides for ownership of property – it defines matrimonial property owned in common and also allows married people to own property separately
  5. The Bill provides for conjugal rights of both parties. It recognizes the consideration of sexual needs of each partner. However, forced sexual acts are unacceptable
  6. The Bill prohibits widow inheritance as a customary practice that undermines the dignity of women
  7. The Bill outlaws the demand of return of marriage gifts in case of breakdown of marriage and stipulates that payment of bride price will be optional

Our Call to Government, Parliament and Citizens

  • Acknowledging the past efforts the current government has put in place to emancipate women; these remain short of achieving their objectives if this fundamental bill is not considered and passed with the full spirit, intent and content. We call upon the government to champion the women’s emancipation cause by passing this law.
  • Recognizing the need to harmonize with key stakeholders on some of the areas of contention, we appeal to the Parliament and the executive not to shelve the bill for another 50 years but expeditiously complete the harmonization process and passage of the bill. The CSOs have listened and are re-drafting proposals to harmonize the positions.
  • Re-affirming that the family is the basic unit of organization in society and requires legislation cognizant of the human rights of both women and men to provide a legal basis for marriage, separation and divorce we appeal to the public especially the men to embrace this piece of legislation.

When we protect the family, we protect society and by so doing, we protect our nation.
Stand Up and Be Counted
Demand Your Right to a Fair Family Law!
For God and My Countr

Uganda National NGO Forum is an inclusive national platform that was formed to create a ‘broad-based’ national body for NGOs to come together in their diversity and pursue a collective agenda or engagement with government and other development actors. We are a membership platform that creates space for NGOs to think and strategize on matters of mutual interest. For more information, please contact us on 0312-260373 or visit us atwww.ngoforum.or.ugor email