UN Women meets the Speaker of Parliament over the pending Bills

Date: Thursday, May 17, 2018

14th May 2018 Kampala, Uganda- UN Women met with the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga to discuss the way forward regarding the pending Marriage and Divorce and the Sexual offences Bills. The Speaker assured the meeting that the Marriage and Divorce Bill is still on the order paper of Parliament and she is ready to bring it on the floor for discussion, as long as there is a motion mover and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is ready to move it to the next stage.

“The Marriage and Divorce Bill is still on the order paper waiting for follow up. At one time some sections of people wanted it withdrawn. I refused and said over my dead body. Please inform the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs that you are ready to return the bill to the floor of Parliament,” the Right Hon. Kadaga advised.

On the Sexual Offences Bill, Hon. Kadaga said that the committee is still waiting for a Certificate of Financial Implication from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to enable her expedite the process. She promised to go ahead and put the Sexual Offences Bill on the order paper for discussion even if the Ministry fails to release the certificate.

“We wrote to request the certificate of financial implication, but Government has been dithering. After the 2018-2019 budget is approved, I am going to put this matter on the order paper with or without the certificate. We have a provision within Parliamentary Rules of Procedure that if after 60 days the Ministry has not given us the certificate, we proceed,” she added. The Right Hon. Speaker also advised UN WOMEN to organize a meeting with the President of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Museveni to drum up support for the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

The meeting was organized by UN WOMEN in Uganda, to provide the Speaker with an update on advocacy engagements to date on the pending bills as well as to strategize on getting them to the floor of Parliament and passed into law within the current 10th Parliament.

In her remarks, the UN Women Deputy Country Representative, Ms. Anna Mutavati raised concern over the weak implementation of the Domestic Violence Act that was passed in 2010. “Even though we have the law in place, it is not working to full extent that we want it to. Domestic violence offenders are still being charged and prosecuted under the Penal Code Act, which has weaker penalties,” she noted. She attributed this to limited awareness of the Domestic Violence Act 2010 by police, prosecutors and the judiciary, and added that UN WOMEN is working with the police, the prosecution and the judiciary to address this gap and ensure access to justice for women in domestic violence cases.

She informed the Speaker that UN Women has engaged Members of Parliament from different committees to strengthen their understanding of the Marriage and Divorce Bill as well as the Sexual Offences Bill. UN Women also supported different women’s rights organizations to continue mobilizing support for the Marriage and Divorce Bill by taking the bill to grassroots communities, religious and traditional leaders.

The meeting was attended by His Lordship, Justice David Batema who is working with UN WOMEN to analyze the compliance of the bills with international women’s rights standards.  The Bills include The Sexual offences Bill, the Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Human Rights Enforcement Bill (2015), The Minimum Wage Bill, and the Persons with Disabilities Bill (2014). Also in attendance was the Director of Gender from the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development who informed the meeting that from the Ministry’s perspective, the Marriage and Divorce Bill was ready to be taken back to Parliament. She reported that the main pockets of resistance to the Bill, for example religious leaders were in support of the Bill provided it removed controversial issues such as the title of the Bill and the proposed recognition of cohabitation as valid marriage. The meeting was also attended by the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) in its capacity as Chair of the CSO Marriage and Divorce Bill Coalition, staff from UN WOMEN Uganda and staff from the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association.