“These women are very affordable,” said one bodaboda cyclist. “They are very good wives. They are even willing to be in polygamous marriages.”
Men in Luwero district are excited about an opportunity to acquire wives at a cheap price.
A coordinator in Bamunanika is supplying men with women in exchange for a ‘transport refund’. Men who need a wife or sometimes several wives, just pay between sh20,000 and sh50,000 and wait for less than a week for the wife/ wives to be delivered at their door steps.
So far, over 10 people have been supplied and all the wives are from Busoga. “These women are very affordable,” said one bodaboda cyclist who took me from Kalule town on the Gulu/ Bombo Highway to Bamunanika.
“They are very good wives. They are even willing to be in polygamous marriages.” My assignment was to pretend I wanted a wife and see what happened.
ASKING FOR A WIFE
In the small trading centre, I met a contact I had been directed to. He explained what I would need to get a wife within a week.
“You pay the transport fare from Busoga. You can also pick her from the coordinator’s home, but he also wants to come and see where you live,” the contact, who asked not to be identified, said. “The whole process will cost you not more than sh50,000.”
He led me to the project coordinator, known as Inginiya. The elderly man sells bicycle spare parts in Bamunanika. Inginiya inquired about my location and seemed to know Luwero very well. I told him my Gombolola, Parish, village and father, whom he said he had heard about.
He then assured me of no regrets with a Musoga spouse. “The Basoga are very hard working,” he said. “Our ancestors used to seek wives from there, too. My home is a practical example. I have two of them. Marrying both of them did not cost me more than sh100,000.
And we are living in peace. So, tell me your preference in height, weight or colour?” He wrote down my preferences and also my National Identity Card details, my village, clan and family background. “Look here; the ideal marriage process is expensive; kukyala, kwanjula and wedding, only to separate in a year. Wives no longer want to dig.
They want soft jobs in town, where their nails won’t be spoilt. Then, they love material things and outing every other time. But a woman from Busoga will not only cut down your costs, but she will also be hard working and is faithful. She knows nobody in the village and has nowhere to go for extramarital affairs.
Her relatives are far and so, they do not frequent your home to burden you. You are a wise man. I will get you a Musoga woman and you will thank me later.”
Bodaboda cyclists directed me to Fred Walusimbi, one of the men who have benefited from this arrangement. He was a widower until recently, when he received two wives at a go. “They are happy,” he said. “They are not complaining.
I see them laugh on their way to fetch water, taking their harvest to Wobulenzi Market and as they go to Church on Sunday.” Many of the wives Inginiya brings, it is said, if they are above 30 years old, they are usually widows or come from broken marriages.
I was told one came with two children; two others came with one child each. Others, it is believed, leave their children in Busoga. And the men said they did not mind looking after the children that were not biologically theirs as long as the children do not inherit their property. The influx of Basoga women is, however, rubbing the women in Bamunanika the wrong way.
One woman, who identified herself as Nansikombi, said the women are taking their men. “These days, men no longer persist. If you say ‘no’ on the first encounter, he does not pursue,” she says. “But it is good manners to say no on first encounter. Girls now fear to lose out because they know once you say no, he will find himself a Musoga and you lose out,” she adds.
I met Salongo Kiddu, who said he was working with Inginiya on the project. He told me they started about three years ago after a contact in Busoga promised to get them women who wanted husbands. “We started sending him sh20,000, sometimes sh50,000 for the transport fare,” recounts Kiddu.
“Early last year, one of the women died after six months. Since then, they demand for HIV and other health tests.” But, according to Kiddu, there is no couple testing. “The woman tests on her own, so does the man. All we need is test results for sickle cell (anaemia) and HIV,” he said. Kiddu said so far, about 10 people have received wives in the last three years.
And, apart from the one who died, there are no complaints. “A home’s welfare depends on how hard working a wife is,” Kiddu argues. “Fortunes have been made in growing water melons, pineapples and ginger because of the hardworking women,” he says.
Human rights officials condemn the practice
Human rights officials are condemning the practice where women are taken from Busoga to be wives in Luwero. “If these allegations are true, we certainly condemn them. They are against the law,” says Dr. Katebalirwe Wa Irumba, a
Commissioner at the Uganda Human Rights Commission. “They not only violate the rights of the women and girls, but they also stifle the development of the country.”
Although he says he cannot talk authoritatively about Sunday Vision investigation, Katebalirwe says they need to carry out independent investigations to find out the magnitude of the problem and what kind of people are involved. “The laws are very clear with regard to marriage between a man and a woman.
The two parties must consent to this relationship. If they do not consent, it is coercion and against the law. Anything beyond that is unlawful and results into violation of victims’ rights,” says Katebalirwe.
While Police in Bamunanika described this as marriages by consenting adults, Moses Binoga, a Police commissioner and coordinator of the anti-human trafficking task force in the internal affairs ministry, says women from Busoga do not seem to have a say.
“I have not received any such reportfrom Luwero, but if women are dished out to paying men they do not know, it is a crime. And we will arrest anybody involved. They will have a case to answer,” says Binoga. Binoga terms it as human trafficking crime law which comes with a penalty of 10 years or life imprisonment.
Traffickers often prey on vulnerable populations like the poor and those in polygamous families who lack adequate care. According to the 2012/2013 survey Uganda Demographic Health Survey, up to 24.3% of the population in Busoga is poor.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, Uganda ranks 20th in internal slavery. In 2015, Rwandan officials and international and local NGOS also reported that Burundian refugee girls were exploited in prostitution in Uganda after transiting Rwanda. Some of these girls were also found to be subjected to forced labour in domestic work in Uganda, another global gender gap report also stated.
Gender and culture minister, Peace Mutuzo, also condemned the act of wife allocation. “I condemn it in the strongest terms and we are going to get to the bottom of this,” she says.