The controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill has been renamed to Marriage Bill and will soon be re-tabled on the floor of Parliament.
The Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRF), which was tasked by Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to review the Bill, informed the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on Monday that consultations on the contentious Bill are complete.
The ULRF Chairperson, Vastina Rukimirana said the draft Bill was handed over to Kahinda Otafiir, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, for re-tabling on the floor of Parliament.
“The short title was changed to Marriage Bill because people said it is like you get married with view of getting divorced. We deleted all provisions on cohabitation,” Rukimirana said, adding that after consultations from various stakeholders, it was agreed that cohabitation as a recognized form of marriage be removed from the Bill.
“People had very strong views concerning that and some swore they are not going to support it if it still has that provision of cohabitation,” Rukimirana added.
However, Kadaga wasn’t happy with the removal of the cohabitation clause, noting that it was intended to cater for and protect the innocent children from such family affairs.
The Commission also revealed that contents in the bill hadn’t been tampered with, save for the Commission making changes in sequencing of the bill, as the earlier one looked jumbled up.
“We also know that it (cohabitation) is a reality and there are people who are still interested in that. We think there are others whose lives need to be protected, not that we want it to be a form of marriage, but the property rights of people in those relationships need to be protected,” said Rukimirana.
The passing of the Bill collapsed when the report on the Marriage and Divorce Bill that had been tabled by the Parliament Committee on Gender was rejected.
Parliament was forced to shelve the Bill yet MPs in the 9th Parliament had been given Shs5m each for consultations on the Bill.
The bill is aimed at reforming and consolidating the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for marital rights and duties.
Some of the contentious clauses include; Clause 14 that seeks to eradicate marriage gifts. It makes it an offence to demand the return of those gifts and a person who contravenes this law faces a one-year jail sentence.
Also, Clause 114 gives a right to any partner to deny the other sex on grounds of poor health, surgery, childbirth or fear of injury or harm, including fear of disease.
And if contravened, the spouse who forcefully has sex with their partner, despite denying sex on the above grounds, will have be imprisoned for a period not exceeding five years.
Section 140 of the bill also bars a spouse from petitioning for divorce before the expiry of two years from the date of marriage and a spouse must prove that he or she is suffering exceptional hardships in marriage.
Further, Clause 147 empowers courts of law to decide whether or not a marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Such grounds are adultery, sexual perversion on the part of the respondent, cruelty whether mental or physical, desertion of the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years, incest, change of religion, among others.
Clauses 115 and 116 also spells out that the property acquired before marriage will not be shared upon dissolution of marriage unless it becomes matrimonial property.
One f the high profile recent divorce cases in Uganda is that of Deputy Speaker. Last year, the High Court Family Division dissolved the marriage of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah and his estranged wife Winnie Amoo Oulanyah.