What you need to know:
When Loyce (not real name) was approached by Gerald, a medical student at Makerere University, She felt privileged. She was in her first year student at the same University pursuing a degree in Human Resource Management.
“Gerald was in his fourth year and being a medical student, I was very surprised that he would be interested in someone like me. I have always been the shy type and he was my first serious boyfriend,” Loyce narrates.
The two had met at a friend’s hostel in Kikoni and exchanged numbers.
“The next day, he called me and said he wanted us to meet which excited me. He suggested that I visit him in his room. He was staying in Mitchel Hall which I declined at the moment. I suggested that we meet at one of the canteens within the university and he accepted,” Loyce says.
It was at this meeting that Gerald asked Loyce to be his girlfriend which she agreed to. The two dated for about a year and a half, that’s when Loyce discovered that she was pregnant.
“I was in my third year, second semester, he was already out of the University and working at one of the private hospitals in Kampala. When I told him that I was pregnant. He was not happy about it and suggested that I abort. Coming from a Christian home, I could not consider aborting and I told him so.”
“He did not talk to me for about a week after that but he later contacted me and asked me to meet him at his home in Bwaise, There, we met and discussed the possibilities. That’s when he asked me to move in with him so that we can start staying together as a family. I was relieved to know that he wanted to start a family with me.” Loyce narrates.
Loyce says that she asked Gerald if he wanted to meet her family first and he openly told her that will have to wait. He also asked her to not tell her family that she was pregnant or that she was going to move in with him.
She was able to finish her last exams before the pregnancy started to show. However, she could not start looking for a job as she was heavily pregnant and thereafter, had to look after their baby girl.
“My mother only got to meet my baby when she was already about 6 months. Although my parents were very disappointed with me, they were a bit relieved to know that Gerald had accepted the responsibility and that we were already staying together” She says.
Loyce says her parents encouraged her to convince Gerald to at least do a ‘kukyala’ and also introduce her to his family, however, Gerald did not want to be rushed into anything and asked Loyce to be patient with him.
“He told me he wanted us to build our own home before we got into other expenses. Although I did not feel comfortable with this arrangement, I had nothing to do. I was already pregnant with our second child and did not want to cause any arguments that would lead to our separation,” Loyce says.
Loyce gave birth to a baby boy, then another baby girl before she started noticing changes in her husband’s behavior.
“He started complaining about me not being able to contribute financially to the expenses and demanded that I find a job. He was also coming home late almost every day and was very disrespectful. He would verbally abuse me in front of our children. I considered leaving him but stayed because of my three children,” She said.
Loyce said she was shocked to learn from one of her husband’s friend that he was planning a kukyala with another woman in 2021.
“I confronted him and he openly told me that we were not married and he was going to marry a woman of his status. Within a period of three months, he did kukyala, Introduction and a wedding. He also moved his new wife to the house that he had building and left me and my kids in a rental. The pain I felt was unimaginable,” Loyce said between tears.
Although she says she has moved on, Loyce says she still considers Gerald her husband and once in a while, he comes by her house to see the children. She has found a low paying job to take care of her own basic needs and those of her children.
“I regret the eight years I wasted staying home and looking after the children because in the end, I came out with nothing of my own, I advise young girls to not rush to get pregnant for any money and always demand to be officially married before moving in with a man,” She says..
Cohabitation is a common practice in Uganda. Demographic health survey report published by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics revealed a steady increase in the number of women in cohabiting relationships from 14 percent in 2006 to 30 percent in 2016. The men’s percentage increased from 6 percent to 19 percent.
It should be noted that cohabitation is not recognized as a marriage by the laws of Uganda although there have been efforts by Women rights bodies to fight for the rights of women who cohabit with men for a long time and end up with nothing after the relationship is dissolved.