Man sues Watoto over tight wedding rules

In the spotlight. Watoto Church’s main branch on Bombo Road in Kampala. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • Complaint. The petitioner says some of the rules violate his human rights and contravene the Constitution.


Watoto Church, one of the leading born-again churches in the country, has been taken to the Constitutional Court on accusations of imposing prohibitive conditions on wedding couples before endorsing their union.
Mr Micheal Aboneka filed the petition on Wednesday. Mr Aboneka states that last month he booked for his wedding to be held at Watoto North Ntinda, one of the church’s celebrations centres.
However, he claims he was left stranded when stringent requirements were imposed on him by the church as a pre-condition to wed him and his companion on October 27.
He said the church asked him to present a letter of consent (blessing) from the parents of the bride-to-be, a pastor’s endorsement of fitness for marriage, evidence of HIV status tested at one of the specified hospitals and a counselling report issued by the respective hospital.
“Your petitioner has expressed interest to get married at the respondent’s church (Watoto Church) and made initial bookings with the respondent and is now in dilemma as his free will is constrained by the mandatory requirements that he insists that he has been asked to furnish before he can be wedded which he construes to be a violation of his fundamental human rights and acts that contravene the supreme law,” Mr Aboneka states in the affidavit in support of his petition.
“I am essentially distressed because the mandatory requirement of the letter of blessing from the bride’s parents or guardians offends the right to free will and consent to marriage by the intending couples and is in contravention and inconsistent with Article 31 (1) & (3) of the Constitution,” the petition further reads.
About the mandatory HIV testing at a specified hospital and a counselling report from the respective medical facility, Mr Aboneka argues this requirement violates his right to privacy and is in contravention of Article 27 (2) of the Constitution.
He further states that the requirement for a letter of consent from parents of the bride-to-be and not from the parents of the groom-to-be, is discriminatory and undermines the dignity, welfare, interest and status of women contrary to Article 33 (4), 6 of the Constitution.
“...This undermines the purpose of marriage which is sacrosanct as intending couples are coerced to comply with the above requirements that do not have a law standing,” the petition avers.
“I further believe that the mandatory requirements are not founded in any law as they are a mere innovation by the respondent and are therefore inconsistent with the Constitution which establishes the legal requirements for any form of marriage in Uganda,” he further states.
Mr Aboneka has also filed an application before the same court seeking a temporary injunction stopping the Church from conducting any wedding using the same requirements until his petition has been disposed of.
Church leaders urge couples to take an HIV/Aids test in a bid to minimise the spread of the pandemic.
They also demand certain requirements for the intending couples by some churches to avoid marriages between close relatives or marrying from the same clan, especially spouses from the central region.
Through his lawyers, Mr Aboneka wants the court to annul all marriages the church has conducted under the same requirements and declare that the aforementioned requirements are irregular, unfounded in law, unconstitutional.
He also wants the court to restrain all churches and mosques from making similar requirements.
By yesterday, Watoto Church had not yet filed its defence.

Other rules

•A wedding date should be booked at least six months in advance
•Wedding fees of Shs450,000
•Mandatory wedding rehearsals supervised by the pastor, one week before the wedding day
•No wedding will be booked on a date that coincides with a significant Watoto Church event.
•Couples must go through pastoral counselling/one-on-one before the wedding is conducted. This includes at least four counselling sessions conducted by the pastor. (II) Group premarital counselling classes. The class sessions must be completed at least two months to the wedding.
•Mandatory wedding rehearsals supervised by the pastor, one week before the wedding day.

Mainstream churches

•Baptism certificate
•Confirmation certificate
•Letters of approval from the parents of both the bride-to-be and groom-to-be
•If you are coming from a different church, you are required to bring a letter from the Parish priest/Reverend and they will proceed to announce your marriage banns during the church service/mass like three times.
•Church fee of about Shs200,000
•Church counselling is at convenience

Requirements by the Muslims
•Consent of the bride-to-be
•Blessings of the father of the bride-to-be
•Bride price and also mahare for the bride-to-be
•Encourage the intending couple to carry out an HIV test.