East Africa

Male MPs plot to delay marriage Bill

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Thirteen MPs – all male – have petitioned Government Chief Whip Kasule Lumumba demanding for the suspension of the on-going debate on the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

The MPs, who are all from the ruling NRM party, say they want a two-month hiatus to “allow them consult their constituents”, Kasambya MP Patrick Mulindwa said yesterday, adding that clauses hitherto passed “in a hurried manner” be recommitted for reconsideration by the House.

President Museveni, who warned during Women’s Day celebrations that the Bill could cause disharmony in society, is scheduled to meet the NRM Caucus on Friday to discuss the controversial clauses in the Bill, which has failed to pass for more than 40 years.

The gender divide that has hamstrung the Bill in the past appears to have split the legislators with the Bill in its most advanced stage in the House under first female Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi said: “The consultations were carried out in the seventh Parliament and right now we are in the ninth Parliament. People in our constituencies are anxious to see the Bill.”

Mr Magyezi led the group of male MPs that stormed out of the House during debate on the Bill. The 13 legislators are particularly opposed to the clauses on cohabitation and marital rape. They argue that recognising cohabitation in regard to property rights would promote adultery and prostitution, adding that spouses could use the threat of marital rape to withhold conjugal rights.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga deferred debate on the Bill to today after Leader of Opposition Nandala Mafabi weighed in on the matter. “If you have problems with your spouse, you should not use the law to solve them,” Mr Mafabi said.

MPs last week voted to ban widow inheritance and refund of bride price while female legislators defended a “get-out” clause that allows couples to divorce after the marriage has irretrievably broken down. They also softened on cohabitation and asked that it be deleted from the Bill.

There are 135 female MPs out of 378 in the House, giving the men an advantage should voting on controversial clauses follow gender lines.

mnalugo@ug.nationmedia.com

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