By Haji Nsereko Mutumba
Much as Muslims are not affected by the on-going debate on marriage and divorce bill because in April 2008, UMSC submitted the Muslim Personal Law Bill to the Uganda Law Reform Commission, which, if passed, will establish Qadhi Courts in Uganda and provide for Muslims a separate family law in respect of marriage, divorce, inheritance, guardianship and other matters incidental thereof as stipulated by Article 129(1) (d) of the Constitution of Uganda.
As a concerned Ugandan as well as the spokesperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), an institution that is a member of the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, I have been closely following the debate on the Marriage and Divorce Bill and I have noted a number of lapses, which all stakeholders should explore a little more before pronouncing their positions about it.
My first concern is about the distribution of properties between husband and wife during divorce. By emphasising the division of family property between the couple at the time of divorce, the Bill seems to undermine the importance of stable marriages and families in nation building. It sends a wrong message to wives that the shortcut to get rich quick is divorce.
By providing for the division of property between husband and wife, the Bill leaves out children born in this relationship. It does not say how much the children gets or who takes the responsibility of the children.
The Bill is also not clear on marriages or relationships in which the wife happens to be the boss as well as the property owner. Can, for example, a man married to or in a relationship with a rich woman claim part of the property during divorce?
The Bill talks of marital rape without applying common sense. It seems to be of the view that women are always the victims and always right.
What is a wife falsely accuses the husband of rape? I also see limited or no chances of proving beyond reasonable doubt for actions that happen in the privacy of bedrooms and on marital beds between husband and wife.
Where will the witnesses come from and do we expect family members like children and parents to be party to this kind of court proceeding?
What is the position of the Bill when a wife stubbornly denies her husband sex for a long time?
My other concern with the promoters of this Bill is that how come it has little support from the rural women, who should have been the primary beneficiaries of this Bill? My understanding is that the Bill is intended to serve the interests of the few elite women rather than the majority of Ugandan women.
I also find the timing of the Bill funny. At a time when corruption, poverty, and homosexuality are threating the livelihood of Ugandans, occupying the Parliament with this Bill is not a very wise move.
Instead of strengthening religious marriages, the Bill seems to glorify cohabitation which undermines the family fabric.
I, therefore, find this Bill diversionary and lacking in many ways. It seems to be designed to complicate normal marriages and pave way for western style, commercial and illicit marriages which will only tore families apart and hence the nation at large.
This is, therefore, to show solidarity with all those Ugandans, especially church leaders who have spoken out against this bill.
My humble appeal to the government is that it should draw a line between religious marriages and secular union system because marriage is a preserve of religious institutions.
The writer is the Spokesperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council
Tel: 0772409504 or 0701409504
Facebook page: UMSC/PRO’s Office
Loopholes in the Marriage and Divorce Bill