The Marriage and Divorce Bill is for men too
Posted Saturday, March 23 2013 at 00:00
For some reason, the women think the Marriage and Divorce Bill is to protect women’s interests at the expense of the men’s. Sheila Naturinda presents the issue to Medard Lubega Segona, the shadow minister of justice and constitutional affairs.
Does the Marriage & Divorce Bill benefit women only? If not, where does it benefit men?
There is no law that benefits a particular group of people and not the others. The Bill talks about property and both men and women own property. In our set up, however, so far more men own more property than the women, so men’s interests are protected too.
We must agree that there has been a degree of oppression against women in our male-dominated society although this is now correctable and that is what the Bill intends to do, to some extent. If the cultural transformation has been slow, what are we to do as Parliament that is supposed to legislate on justice? We have to make a law. Our only duty and challenge is to sensitise and make further consultations.
Where does the perception that the Bill is a Women’s Bill come from then?
People not reading the Bill. Most of the people look at the original Bill and not the report which has been made by the Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs. Some proposals like the issue of bride price abolition, was rejected by the Committee because it has cultural aspects. What remains now is that we do not want the bride price returned.
However, even that will bring some challenges. For example, imagine you marry and before a year ends, the woman wants to leave- you yet you just completed paying bride price, which in some cultures, remains very high. What do you do? Another example is when you want to marry from some culture but you cannot because they need that bride price as a must. What do you do? I think as we legislate on bride price, we shall also need to look at our diverse cultures, consult and sensitise people.
The perception also comes in when we discuss the element that women will be sharing part of the property, which means that more men will be losing their property than women. This is a wrong perception, hence the need to sensitise and consult further lest we discourage marriages and have more people choosing to cohabit.
How is the Bill and its current debate countrywide going to affect the final legislation?
As Parliament, we have the capacity and the will to bring a well-packaged law. Ultimately, we must bring a well packaged law because we are legislating for the whole country and we must listen to all the people from all corners, and include their legitimate concerns.
As the debate continues, more women seem interested in the law than the men. At what point should a man come in to support the Bill?
Men should come in very handy now that it is the consultative, lobbying, convincing stage so that everyone appreciates the intention of the Bill.
Meanwhile there are some women who aren’t in support of the Bill because marriage is an institution which has been self-regulated. I still maintain that however good the Bill is, we haven’t done enough consultations because even these two weeks for Easter recess are not enough for consultations.
And let the women get their hands off the Bill as if it were theirs alone, because however much it is a positive legislation, their efforts could be misinterpreted for something else. They also must concede on some grounds. The debate should continue countrywide because its healthy and adds value on what we are legislating on.