Government has yet again asked for more time to carry out further consultations before Parliament can consider the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which has been in the House for 10 years now.
The Bill was initially called the Domestic Relations Bill, but was split into three which also include the Sexual Offences Bill, 2015, which was introduced and later withdrawn from the House, and the Muslim Personal Bill, which has never been introduced.
The Marriage and Divorce Bill seeks to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for the types of recognized marriages in the country and marital rights and duties.
The Bill was meant to be considered at the Second Reading in Parliament on Wednesday but suffered postponement like several other proposed legislations when government sought for more time.
Deputy Attorney General, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana, asked Parliament for two months to carry out the consultations with stakeholders who, he said, included government, Uganda Law Reform Commission and legislators on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which considered the Bill.
“I am shy to present this Bill [for the Second Reading]. I need two months for consultations,” he said adding that “We should not rush [the consideration], we need the time to reach a consensus.”
Hon. Joy Atim (UPC, Lira district) demanded that government moves the Bill and have it disposed of instead of asking for extensions.
“What is he [Rukutana] shy about? This Bill is not about women but both genders. We want government to take the matter seriously,” she said.
Deputy Speaker, Jacob Olanyah, who chaired the sitting, defended the Minister saying that he was “shy to present” a Bill, which was introduced during the Eighth Parliament in 2009.
The Bill has been on and off the order of business for several years, and has had various advocates calling for its speedy consideration.
In May last year, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, tasked the UN Women to lobby government to present the Bill for consideration by the House noting that it [government] had abdicated its responsibility to fill the gap in the existing legislation.
During the meeting, the UN officials recommend that the Bill be renamed the Marriage Bill, and also have cohabitation provided for in the proposal.
The Speaker promised to have the Bill considered after completing the budget process, which ended in May.