Programme: COMMON MATTERS  - CSO Partner: UWONET (Uganda Women’s Network)

The purpose of the Marriage and Divorce Bill is to ensure equal rights for men and women in marriage, during separation, and at divorce. It also seeks to protect property rights of persons in cohabiting relationships.These rights are often violated and in particular those of women. In 2013, the Bill was tabled in the 9th Parliament and only 20 of the 178 clauses passed. Opponents argued that the purpose of this Bill is to protect only women and that it encourages couples to file for divorce. These misconceptions still exist among policy makers and within communities. Therefore, the campaign aimed to increase a fact-based discussion on the Marriage and Divorce Bill, both among citizens and duty bearers.

What we did

Three TRAC FM poll questions informed focused talk-shows on nine radio stations throughout Uganda and attracted nearly 13,000 individual responses. The findings of the poll questions are depicted on the next page. The results of the polls were used in a variety of stakeholder meetings attended by the members of the Marriage and Divorce Bill coalition, which largely comprises of CSO partners; duty bearers and ers from the Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC). During the campaign, it was evident that the majority of listeners still thought the bill was about either promoting divorce or only beneficial to women opened up the debate on the bad reputation of the bill.

These insights were shared and discussed in an online expert chat, set up by TRAC FM. The chat-group consist- ed of government representatives, legal experts, members of the Marriage and divorce bill coalition and members from civil society. Among other discussion points, it was concluded that the name of the proposed legislation as the ‘Marriage and Divorce bill’ carried a negative and misleading name. It was argued that the name distracts the discussion from its actual purpose.

UWONET and its coalition, therefore, submitted a request at the ULRC to change the name. With the findings from the campaign, they were able to convince the Commission to change the name into “The Marriage Bill”.

Laureen Karayi, program coordinator, women’s rights and access to justice at UWONET, explained how this impacted the opponents’ views especially the faith-based structures/institutions “Religious leaders who have for a long time been at the fore of opposing this Bill are now in agreement with the name change and the content, because we were able to change the name. I am sure that many more stakeholders will agree as well. The invaluable information and voices from the community through the campaign continues to inform the coalitions’ advocacy strategy to see this gender-sensitive legislation enacted into law. The campaign was an innovative approach that had not been used in the advocacy journey of the Bill. The Bill is on the order paper of Parliament and will be discussed within the next one year.

"The discussions teach me and teach others. The issue of conjugal rights was truly eye-opening, I understand now that someone might not want to engage in sexual intercourse because she or he has justifiable reasons such as poor health." - Bymukama, 27yr old participant