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Uganda: New Bill Seeks To Recognise Cohabiting For Six Months As Legal Marriage

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Ugandan couples who have lived together for at least six months will be recognized as legally married if the new bill is passed by parliament.

Tororo District MP Sarah Opendi made the proposal as part of the Marriage Bill 2022. She has not tabled it yet, however.

The MP says he is seeking to amend what he calls the outdated marriage law and the need to consolidate the institution’s legal provisions into one volume.

Opendi considers it “unacceptable and insulting” for a man to live with someone’s daughter without fulfilling his traditional obligations, which include paying dowry.

“Why do you want to live with someone’s daughter without even loving the parents?” Why?” he said, “Considering that it is your daughter and a man starts having [children] with her without even alerting the father, will you be satisfied?” he was quoted by the Daily Monitor as saying in parliament.

In his argument, about seven out of 10 couples in neighboring western Kenya live together.

He also denies the lack of means to pay the dowry as a reason for delaying or rejecting the wedding, saying, “It’s not just about wealth.”

Previous attempts by the Ugandan parliament to change the marriage law have been unsuccessful due to divided views on, among other things, the definition of marriage, legal protection for the parties, property and division in the event of divorce.

On the contrary, in Kenya, the law states that couples who live together without the intention of marrying cannot automatically become a marriage union until they marry voluntarily.

In addition, the Matrimonial Property Law states that ownership of matrimonial property belongs to the couple based on the contribution of either spouse to its acquisition, and must be divided between the couple if they divorce or if their marriage breaks up.

A spouse, however, must prove his or her contribution to the marital property in order to determine their share in the event of divorce.

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