Why we should rejoice in, not flee from this Bill
Posted Saturday, March 23 2013 at 00:00
A week before the Women’s Week this year, I was one of the clueless Ugandans going with the flow on the matter of the Marriage and Divorce Bill that was being debated in Parliament. Then one of my friends Joyce Busingye laughed at me and ranked me as one of the famous Africans who the white man was talking about when he said “If you were to hide a secret from an African, put it in a book!”
As if God had not had enough humour with my ignorance, I was invited to give my view on a radio show. Yes, on the Bill! There I was now running like a headless chicken to find out the true facts about the Bill before I made a fool of myself on national radio. As we speak today, I can authoritatively say I’m one of the few Ugandans who have had a chance to get acquainted with the stipulations in the Bill, a state of affairs that has enlightened on certain misconceptions I had before that I would like to share below.
1. The one thing that ticked off most men was the sharing of property aspect. The Bill did not at any point ask us to share all our property but only property that you have accumulated together during holy matrimony. Honestly men, how can you even debate this? How unfair do you want to be to your partners? They have your children to take care of. If you do not love the wives then it is okay, but for the sake of your children, please help us get this bill passed!
2. One of the gentlemen at the radio talk show said the Bill said “after 10 years of cohabitation you are officially married”. Another young man I met at the Celebrating Womanhood Festival debate on Women’s Day, audaciously said the Bill stipulates that the woman becomes your wife after six months of cohabitation. Thank goodness the cohabitation clause is being scrapped altogether. Even then, it would be wise for the increasing number of youths going into cohabitation and having children to draw some agreements that can protect them in the future if things go sour.
3. Then, I hear the Bill was encouraging women to deny their husbands sex at a whim. All it is saying is that in case a woman has medically proven reasons not to endanger her life by engaging in sex with her husband, the law can protect her from that danger. This could for instance help reduce the numerous fistula cases resulting from brutal husbands who force themselves on their wives a few days or weeks after child birth.
4. The other ignorant issue they raised was that the Bill was against dowry. What the Bill is saying is “thank you very much for dowry, but you were not buying a donkey. It was a token of appreciation to the parents who raised that wonderful wife you are in love with. This woman should not be imprisoned to you because of your material. Pay dowry with the notion in mind that it is not refundable my friend. “ You as a brother, father, friend or family to the woman should be super excited for the girl child because your sisters and daughters no longer have to become slaves or prisoners to materials.
On that note, I beseech all Ugandans, especially the legislators, to read and understand the Bill. I am also asking all parties concerned to sensitise the communities about the Bill since there is a lot of hog wash that ignorant debaters out there have been selling to the public about the Bill. At Women of Valor Foundation, we say as women, it is our mandate to invest and share knowledge with fellow women for a better future since we are all the mothers of our nations.