The church to teach, and the state to protect me
Posted Saturday, March 23 2013 at 00:00
Our only concern with the Bill should be that it has dragged on for so long. Rather than hide our heads in the sand and pretend about issues such as cohabitation, which are on the increase, we should be thinking of how to protect the parties in such situations, writes Rebecca Rwakabukoza.
I like the Marriage and Divorce Bill and do not understand why people are opposing it. I think we should instead be complaining about how long it has dragged on. We would ask Parliament why it is divided on this Bill.
The only problem with this Bill is that we are a pretentious nation. We have people, within and outside of Parliament, complaining about cohabition and claiming that this Bill turns marriage into a business venture because of the property sharing. Cohabiting is on the rise, dear church leaders.
If we label the growing tendency to cohabit religiously wrong, then perhaps the place to lecture and talk about it is in our holy places. The state should not have to preach to women about their living conditions but recognise them as citizens of this country and therefore protect them as such. If anything, we ought to look at the church with a critical eye and ask them where they assume they have failed.
As for property sharing, I only have this to say: we built it, we share it. A while back, I was traumatised by a burial procedure. A young mother of two had unexpectedly passed away. The father of this young woman halted the burial because the bride price had not been paid yet. The body bled, and still he held. His daughter must have her bride price. It was not that the daughter’s partner was unwilling to pay, but that the price had been too high for him. He was her choice of partner though and she lived with him playing the role of partner, and eventually mother.
This, I would later find out, was not an isolated case and through the country, there were several similar incidents. The marrying of culture and law is recommendable and fills several gaps in our constitution. Take the instance of the man who had to bottle up his grief to look for cows for the partner whose father would not allow them to bury his daughter.
For this man, the Bill makes bride price optional. Several people (mostly men) have complained about this, citing cultural values. Many have been misguided to think that the Bill abolishes bride price. It does not. Take those cows if you have them and if you don’t, no one is holding it against you. For this man, the Bill recognises long-term cohabiting as a contractual marriage.
He would otherwise have been excluded from Article 31 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution that provides for equality in marriage. It states that “men and women…are entitled to equal rights in marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution”. It is a basic human right. One could even call it good manners.