April 25, 2014

Otafiire: Marriage and Divorce Bill For Posterity

Kahinda Otafiire, Uganda's Justice and constitutional affairs minister.
Kahinda Otafiire, Uganda’s Justice and constitutional affairs minister.

Uganda’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire has said that the Marriage and Divorce Bill was shelved because it was likely to create havoc than harmony in relationships.

He said the hullabaloo and excitement about the bill from legislators, members of the Public and religious leaders implied that the law would not be implemented even if it sailed through parliament.

The law which covered a wide range of marriage, divorce and gender issues, including bride wealth, and the rights of cohabitating couples, has been in the pipeline since 1964. It was initially tabled and debated as the Domestic relations bill but was later split by the Law Reform Commission into two parts so as to provide for a separate law for the Islamic faith.

But after countrywide consultations last year, there was a common objection that the Bill undermined traditional and religious understandings of marriage and property relations. Also worrying to some was an apparent importation and imposition of Western values.

Today, Otafiire told women activists in Kampala that the bill is now reserved for posterity. He is however optimistic that it will resurface after greater enlightenment, more political awareness and actualization. He made reference to Military guidelines through which they are not supposed to make any order that will cause a mutiny.

He was speaking at the launch of a report; “Making a Difference beyond Numbers: Towards Women’s Substantive Engagement in Political Leadership in Uganda”. The report is a brainchild of the Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) in collaboration with The Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA).

His comments were also in response to a concern by former Ethics and Integrity Minister Miria Matembe.  Matembe had questioned why the Anti-Pornography Bill that was commonly popularized as the Mini-Skirt Law came through so fast yet the Marriage and Divorce Bill is being shelved.

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