Members of Parliament have questioned the criteria to be used to separate and divide property among cohabiting couples.
The Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009 recognizes the rights of cohabiters in sharing property after termination of cohabitation. However, cohabitation is not a form of marriage recognized in Uganda.
The legal and parliamentary affairs committee report presented by Sarah Mpabwa caused uproar among MP’s when she mentioned the Bill’s recognition of cohabitation.
Odonga Otto, Aruu county MP, argues that for couples who stay for 10-15 years without marriage, it would be unfair for the woman to be forced to walk out without any property just because they are not married.
MP’s also noted that there are many murder cases in families that are related to property which would put couples at risk especially in relationships that are material oriented.
Others maintained that cohabiting is immoral and evil as stated in the Bible though this was received with arguments of misunderstanding the holy books.
Beatrice Anywar, the Kitgum woman MP, supports the Bill because women now days’ work to earn a living unlike in the past when most women would only be housewives.
Nzoghu William, the Busongora North MP, argues that if this Bill allows for putting stringent measures in marriage he foresees no families, so each partner should be allowed to walk away with the property they came with.
Some MP’s argued that some men do not have personal wealth and survive on their parents’ wealth, so there is need to clearly define what property is, otherwise the right to divide property in cohabitation should be allowed.
The objective of the Bill is to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage and divorce, to provide for the types of recognized marriages in Uganda and marital rights and duties. It also recognizes cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, rights of parties on dissolution of marriage and for other connected purposes.
Earlier on Sebagala Latif, the Kawempe North MP, asked when the Muslim personal law would see the light of day in Parliament since they are not included the Marriage and Divorce Bill. Attorney General Fred Ruhindi clarified that they carried out consultation with the Muslims, but some sections of the Islam community were not comfortable with some provisions.
He says they thought they had done good justice with the Bill because they suggested operationalizing of article 129 of the constitution on the establishment of the Kadhi courts and apply the Quran law.
Ruhindi revealed that the law reform commission is working on the Muslim personal law before it is produced in Parliament. So if the Marriage and Divorce Bill is passed in the event that the Muslim personal law is not yet before Parliament, then Muslims will still be governed by the Quran.