What you need to know:
- The passing of the motion seconded by Mr Asumani Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) and Mr Nathan Byanyima ( Bukanga North) is, however, the latest episode in a series of failed previous attempts to pass the Bill.
Parliament yesterday authorised Tororo Woman MP Sarah Achieng Opendi to bring back a Private Member’s Bill, titled, “The Marriage Bill”.
The motion seeking leave of Parliament to draft a new Bill that seeks to provide a comprehensive legislation on matters relating to particular marriages received cross-party support during the afternoon House session chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Teyebwa.
Ms Opendi said the Marriage Act, enacted 118 years ago, needs amendment and that “other than having different aspects of marriage scattered in various legislations, the new Bill will provide for comprehensive legislation on matters relating to marriage under one law.”
The passing of the motion seconded by Mr Asumani Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) and Mr Nathan Byanyima ( Bukanga North) is, however, the latest episode in a series of failed previous attempts to pass the Bill.
In her submission, Ms Opendi argued that some aspects of the laws regulating the different types of marriages have become outdated, especially in light of the Constitution, government policies, emerging international best practices and the legal environment.
The proposed Bill seeks to conform with the Constitution and specifically deals with the age of marriage, consent to marriage as required by Article 31(3) of the Constitution, forms of marriage, solemnisation of marriage, prohibited degrees of relationship for marriage, conditions for polygamy, and marriage gifts among other elements.
Ms Opendi cited bridal gifts as one critical area that the Bill will redefine. The proposed Bill recognises marriage gifts but proposes that they should not be among the requirements for marriage.
This particular clause and other controversial sections strained similar attempts to enact a related legislation titled: the Domestic Relations Bill, the Marriage and Divorce Bill and now the Marriage Bill.
However, in 2019, the government asked for more time to carry out further consultations before Parliament can consider the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which has been in the House for 10 years now.
The Bill was initially called the Domestic Relations Bill, but was later split into three, which also include the Sexual Offences Bill, 2015, which was introduced and later withdrawn from Parliament and the Muslim Personal Bill, which has never been introduced. The Muslims rejected the Bill because it flouted the tenets of the Quran.
The Marriage Bill seeks to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for the types of recognised marriages in the country and marital rights and duties.
The then deputy Attorney General, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, asked Parliament for two months to carry out the consultations with stakeholders who, he said, included government, Uganda Law Reform Commission and legislators on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which considered the Bill.
But Ms Opendi told the House that: “There is urgent need to amend the lows governing marriage in Uganda in order to safeguard the institution of marriage, clarify the rights of parties to a marriage, incorporate the standards of fairness and equity in those laws and codify various decisions of courts of judicature pertaining to maintenance, sharing of matrimonial property, grounds for divorce, bride price, widow inheritance and parental consent.”