Government ‘shy’ to table Marriage law

The draft legislation on marriage will stay a little longer on shelf after government shied away from re-tabling it before Parliament for enactment.

Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana told Parliament on Wednesday that government needs at least two more months to exhaust consultations on the newly packaged Marriage Bill.

Rukutana said that he was “too shy to report on the status of the bill since it has taken too long.”

He said, although the bill was expected to come in for a second reading, it requires a wide nature of consultations, implying that they might take more time in order to ensure that all interests are catered for.

The Bill, which was initially tabled in December 2009 as the Marriage and Divorce Bill was recently renamed the Marriage Bill after the Law Reform Commission revisited it and removed some of the clauses that had sparked protestations from some religious and cultural groups.

The initial Bill provided for recognized forms of marriages in Uganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation, dissolution of marriage and rights of parties as well as outlawing the return of bride price.

It prohibited widow inheritance and equalized prejudiced divorce provisions which granted absolute rights to men.

The original draft had also outlawed the payment of bride price as a prerequisite for marriage.

In the revised draft of the legislation, most of the prohibitive clauses were removed and also dropped provisions that recognised cohabitation as a form of a legal union.

In effect, even the rights that had been granted to cohabiting couples, including the right to property were dropped.

While MPs such as Joy Atim Angom (Lira Woman) questioned the slow pace which the bill was taking and asked the government to treat it with urgency, Rukutana said that the bill is an important piece of legislation which however cannot be rushed.

This is the latest in the many transformations the bill has gone through in the last 15 years.

Tabled as the Domestic relations bill, in 2003, the draft was rejected by Muslim groups opposed to the provisions banning polygamy.

After being rejected by Parliament in 2006, the bill was split into a Muslim Personal Law Bill, which covers Muslim marriages, and the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

The drafts were however shelved following wide condemnation from a section of religious leaders and members of the public arguing that the proposals within were alien to African culture.