By Moses Mulondo & Cyprian Musoke
KAMPALA - The Speaker of Parliament on Wednesday notified MPs that passing the Marriage and Divorce Bill is one of the outstanding issues parliament has to consider in the current session.
In her communication from the chair, Kadaga said, “You recall that in March 2013 I adjourned the house and requested members to go and consult their constituencies on the Marriage and Divorce Bill. It is our duty to consider that Bill.”
The Speaker said she had notified the Leader of Government Business and the Leader of Opposition to meet and come up with a joint report on how to proceed with the Bill considering the views that came from the constituencies.
When Kadaga was sending parliament on recess to consult on the Bill in 2013, she said, “Read the bill. You will also be provided with the existing law because there is an impression that these are new laws. These are not new laws.
"There is a Marriage Act, there is a Divorce Act, and there is a Baha’i Marriage Act, Marriage of Hindus Act, customary marriages. What the law is doing is put them in one document.”
Earlier on, during a consultative meeting organized by the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), the Speaker reiterated that it was time to address the Bill soberly and pass it into law.
“Why don’t we help the people of this country? Let us finish with this business. It has been around for so long,” Kadaga argued.
During the time when the MPs were consulting their constituencies on the Bill, most media reports indicated that majority of the constituencies had rejected the Bill considering to be proposing a marriage setup that is alien to African culture.
Women emancipation activist Miria Matembe says reviving the bill is "good news"
While responding to calls for passing the Bill during an NRM caucus meeting last year, President Yoweri Museveni urged the members not to push for it arguing it would cause a civil war in the country.
The Uganda Joint Christian Council has also issued various statements warning against passing the Bill arguing its provisions like inducements for divorce, turning cohabitation into marriage, and making a woman and a man equal in the marriage setting, are contrary to the Christian teaching.
Various feminist civil society groups and women’s groups have been pushing for the Bill to be passed to end injustices against women in marriages.
Apart from the already mentioned provisions in the Bill, another clause in the Bill that requires a man and woman to share properties while separating caused uproar especially among men who argued it was a ploy by women to grab their hard earned wealth.
'Dangerous to marriages'
Responding with disappointment to Kadaga’s communication, Family Life activist Dr. Martin Ssempa (pictured below) said, “This is resurrecting something that is dangerous to marriages in Uganda. The Bill is very hostile to men and instead of solving marriage problems it will create more marital conflicts and separations.
"The Bill needed to die and resurrect with new life. Malawi has just passed a similar law which is better. They can learn from Malawi," said the pastor.
Giving more information, Ssempa said, “As family/marriage activists we are outraged by the return of that Bill. There are foreign forces pushing for that Bill. As witnessed when the MPs were consulting on that Bill, the Uganda population thoroughly rejected that Bill. What we want is the return of the Anti-homosexuality Bill.”
On her part, women emancipation activist Miria Matembe called it a "good move".
“That is good news because as women lawyers under FIDA we have just been discussing ways of reviving the bill to be debated in parliament. We need a law to protect and regulate the family which is the basic unit of our society, said the former ethics minister.
On negative response on the bill experienced when MPs were consulting their constituencies, Matembe said, “It was a mistake to send it to the public because MPs confused it and people saw it as a harmful law.
"Many of those MPs were also ignorant about the content of the Bill. That law is not for the benefit of women against men but for the benefit of the family.”