DOMESTIC RELATIONS BILL: Women Paliamentarians Court Religious Leaders

Chairperson of the Uganda women Parliamentarians Association, Betty Amongi (left), and her committee members.
Chairperson of the Uganda women Parliamentarians Association, Betty Amongi (left), and her committee members.

The Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA) is rallying religious leaders to accept cohabiting couples as provided for in the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009.
Ronah Ninsiima, Kabale woman MP, says they need to negotiate with the religious leader to make them realize that children got from cohabiting are a reality.
Clause 133 of the bill recognises cohabiting and the sharing of property among cohabiting couples. It provides that during the subsistence of a marriage or cohabitation, if any property is acquired in the names of the spouses jointly or cohabitees jointly, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the beneficial interests of the spouses or cohabitees are equal.
Ninsiima says all those who argue against the clause may not support the rights of cohabiting couples but keep in mind the children who are produced as a result of cohabiting.
Betty Amongi, the UWOPA chairperson, says during consultations with religious leaders, they opposed presumption of cohabitation after five years. This was under the then Domestic Relations Bill which government dropped.Amongi, the MP for Oyam South, argues that since they were not defining the status of cohabitees as a legal one, many people argued that they could not go ahead to recognise the right of these couples thus dropping the clause.
The Bill is still being discussed before Parliament and some members of Parliament last week opposed the recognition of cohabitation as form of marriage. They proposed deletion of the clause saying it is immoral and evil.
Another contentious clause tackles conjugal rights where the bill proposes that when one is married a spouse has a right to sex. However, the Bill also makes suggestions on when a spouse can deny their partner conjugal rights.
Clause 114 was opposed by male MPs for suggesting that one can deny their spouse conjugal rights on reasonable grounds. These include poor health, surgery that affects the capacity to engage in sexual intercourse, child birth and where a spouse has reasonable fear that engaging in sexual intercourse is likely to cause physical or psychological injury.

The male MPs had demanded a clear definition of what poor health is and deletion of the clause relating to physical and psychological injury being a ground to denial of conjugal rights.
Amongi reveals that they are going to meet the legal experts and define what constitutes poor health and are open to amendments to the Bill.
PMeanwhile, to mark the International Women’s Day tomorrow, government is going to recognise 27 women MPs for their role in supporting women

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