Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman Member of Parliament, has unveiled several proposals in her Marriage Bill, which she believes could bring about a significant transformation in the institution of marriage in Uganda.
During a press conference at Parliament on Monday, Opendi outlined the objectives of the bill, which aims to establish robust and comprehensive legislation on marriage while repealing certain provisions of the outdated Marriage Act, which has remained unchanged for 118 years.
One of the key proposals put forth by Opendi is the recognition of cohabitation for a period exceeding six months as a valid form of marriage.
Opendi argues that this provision will safeguard the rights of individuals who are living together without the formalities of a legal marriage.
However, this proposal has generated mixed reactions among Ugandans, with concerns being raised about its potential implications.
In July 2022, Parliament granted Opendi permission to introduce the Marriage Bill. Opendi highlighted the need to update the laws governing various types of marriages in Uganda to align them with the Constitution, government policies, and international best practices that have evolved over time.
One significant aspect addressed by the bill is the redefinition of bridal gifts. While the bill acknowledges the tradition of marriage gifts, it proposes that such gifts should not be a requirement for marriage.
Furthermore, the proposed legislation criminalizes spouses who demand the return of gifts, imposing a penalty of not less than 12 months imprisonment.
The bill also aims to address concerns related to marriage registration, customary marriages, polygamous marriages, and the dissolution of marriages. It includes provisions to protect the rights of women and children in the event of a divorce.
Opendi emphasizes that these measures will play a crucial role in defending women’s rights within marriages, as women have often faced unfair treatment regarding bridal gifts and the division of property during divorce proceedings.
The response of Parliament to the proposed bill and its potential passage into law remains uncertain, leaving the final outcome in the hands of legislative decision-makers.