Source: Womensnews
By Claire Hoi

On 11 November 2009, The Ugandan National Assembly finally adopted a law criminalising domestic violence. On 10 December, defenders of women's rights won a further victory when a bill prohibiting female genital mutilation flew through parliament. These two new laws are currently awaiting signature by the President to take effect.

It is hoped that these developments may also pave the way for the adoption of further reforms on women's rights, in particular concerning discrimination in the areas of marriage and divorce.

A draft law on marriage and divorce is currently before Parliament. The draft law grants women the right to divorce spouses for cruelty, the right to choose their spouse and the abolition of the customary practice of widow inheritance. Polygamy is prohibited. It also provides for equal division of property and finances in the event of divorce.

However, the proposed law would govern Christian, Hindu, and traditional marriages but not Muslim marriages. Thus many women in Uganda - where an estimated 12 % of the population are Muslims - would be excluded from its application.

Furthermore, the current bill does not prohibit the traditional practice of the husband's family giving marriage gifts to the wife's family, the so-called « bride price »,which can inhibit abused woman from leaving their husbands for fear that they could demand refund of the gifts. However, in the proposed legislation, bride price will not be returnable in the event of divorce.