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Widow inheritance to be banned in Uganda

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Sheria (The Law Forum)' started by ByaseL, Sep 28, 2009.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Sep 28, 2009
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    By Madinah Tebajjukira

    A NEW Bill on marriage and divorce wants to ban widow inheritance, a common practice in Uganda where a widow is inherited by a husband’s relative, mostly a brother-in-law.The proposed Bill also allows women to divorce their husbands when they are permanently impotent.

    The new Bill, which will be tabled in Parliament soon, further outlaws forced marriages, makes bride price non-refundable and puts the age of marriage at 18. The average age girls marry in Uganda is currently 17.9.

    The Uganda Law Reform Commission, a Government body, met women MPs in Entebbe on Friday to introduce the Marriage and Divorce Bill, a successor of the highly contested Domestic Relations Bill.

    The bill is meant to harmonise issues of marital property rights, sexual rights in marriage and domestic violence.

    The provision aims at liberating women who are stuck in childless marriages, explained Tessa Kawooya, the legal officer of the Uganda Law Reform Commission, at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel.

    “Some men don’t reveal at the time of marriage that they are permanently impotent. Such marriages are null and void.”

    Upon discovery that the man is impotent, the woman, under the new bill, can petition a competent court to nullify the marriage, she noted.

    On marital rights, the bill says the spouses have equal rights of consortium.

    However, a spouse may deny the other the right to sex on reasonable grounds such as poor health, after surgery, childbirth and fear of causing physical and psychological harm.

    There are criminal and civil sanctions for spouses who force their partner into sex when the above conditions apply.

    Property owned by couples is referred to as matrimonial (common) property. This includes homes, household property and anything acquired during marriage.

    “Where a spouse enters a transaction that relates to the matrimonial home without the consent of the other spouse, the transaction may be set aside by the court.”

    The bill also recognises separate property.

    It further provides that spouses cannot apply for divorce in the first two years of marriage except when suffering ‘exceptional hardship’.

    The proposed bill lists as acceptable grounds for divorce adultery, sexual perversion, cruelty (mental and physical), desertion of at least two years and change of religion.

    Sexual perversion means sodomy, bestiality, homosexuality and pornography.

    In addition, marriage is voidable if any of the parties is expecting a child with another person without the knowledge of the other party.

    It can also be dissolved when one party refuses to consummate the marriage in the first three months without good reasons, or is unable to consummate the marriage within nine months of marriage.

    The bill gives power to sub-county chiefs to issue marriage certificates under the customary marriage.

    The proposed law also gives power to the justice minister to determine and license places where marriages can take place.

    During the debate, the MPs wondered why the Bill gives powers to the minister to determine places of worship and not religious leaders.

    The MPs noted that in some societies, marriages are held anywhere the parties involved feel comfortable.

    “What will be done in Karamoja where marriages are held anywhere they feel convenient. We need to look at these customs,” said Sammy Lote of Moroto municipality.

    The Bill, if enacted into law, will require the court to divide the wealth equally between wife and husband in case of divorce.

    Cohabiting couples will be allowed to divide the wealth accumulated while staying together.

    However, MPs raised concern that the bill may encourage cohabitation as a ‘business venture’.

    For marriages to be valid, neither party should have a spouse living at the time of marriage, the Bill stipuates.

    The parties should be of opposite sex, sound mind and not directly related.