Cohabiting couples will soon have an opportunity to share property as the law to legalize it is in final stages.
Spearheaded by the Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC), the proposed legislation seeks to draw modalities on how property acquired among couples that aren’t legally married, but have been living together will be shared upon demise of the relationship.
Appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present their 2018/2019 Ministerial policy statement, ULRC officials led by Chairperson Vastina Rukimirana Nsanze told the Committee that following consultations undertaken on the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009, the Commission was advised to strike out the controversial clauses, if the Bill was to see the light of the day.
Rukimirana revealed that the Commission has lined up the development of legislation to govern sharing of property in cohabitation relationships among the activities to be undertaken in 2018/19.
It should be recalled that the matter on property sharing was a subject of contention during the consideration of the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009, but the clause on property sharing was opposed by many MPs.
Clause 127(1) of the Bill states that where a spouse acquires property before or during the marriage and the property does not fall within matrimonial property as defined in section 115, but his or her spouse makes a contribution towards the improvement of that property, be it monetary or in kind, the spouse without the interest shall acquire a beneficial interest equivalent to the contribution she or he made.
Further, clause 141(1) notes that upon separation of the spouses, matrimonial property shall not be divided between the parties but a court may order that the spouses share any income that may accrue from the matrimonial property.
The other point of contention was marital rape that received fierce reception from the male MPs in the 9th Parliament. This prompted Parliament to facilitate each MP with Shs5M to consult their voters on the matter.
During the Committee session, Wilfred Niwagaba, Shadow Attorney General welcomed the development, saying tabling the Bill of such nature is long overdue since couples in cohabiting relationships who are the majority in Uganda need this Bill the most.
“The law on sharing of property is long overdue if we actually kill the phobia around the Marriage and Divorce Bill. Most women are used and abused and at the end, they walk out empty handed,” Niwagaba said.
In their budget proposal, the Commission is seeking Shs6.5bn for printing the 7th edition of the Laws of Uganda, both principal and subsidiary laws.
However, the money hasn’t been provided for in the upcoming budget despite the fact that the Commission is lagging behind by three years to undertake this exercise.
In the 2018/2019 budget, the Commission budget proposal is Shs18.58bn, of which Shs5.39bn is for wages, Shs12.8bn for non-wage recurrent expenditure and Shss366.45bn for development expenditure.
However, the Ministry of Finance has only provided Shs17.26bn.