The opposition to the Marriage and Divorce Bill by religious leaders continues with two bishops in Fort Portal criticising government for allowing a bill that could break marriages to be tabled. But Bishops Robert Muhiirwa of Fort Portal Catholic Diocese and Reuben Kisembo of Rwenzori Diocese, say they find it hard to support a law that would weaken the institution of marriage.
Two weeks ago the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga sent legislators on recess to consult their electorate about the now controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009.
But Bishops Robert Muhiirwa of Fort Portal Catholic Diocese and Reuben Kisembo of Rwenzori Diocese, say they find it hard to support a law that would weaken the institution of marriage.
Dr. Robert Muhiirwa says he is disappointed by the government tabling the bill and asking Parliament to discuss it.
Bishop Muhiirwa says the title itself “Marriage and Divorce Bill” is misleading to couples or partners and if passed into law it would encourage divorce instead of harmonizing marriage to be a long lasting institution. He explains that since marriage is meant to build a family, the bill would have been“Marriage and the Family Bill” but not marriage and divorce.
On cohabitation, one of the contentious clauses in the bill, the Bishop explains that its interpretation is misleading the people because it undermines the holy matrimony and promotes divorce and separation. He says if the bill is passed in its current form it will encourage men to have as many wives as possible and as a result there will be conflicts and domestic violence in homes which the church condemns.
Bishop Muhiirwa explains that the church has been charged with the responsibility of counseling couples in marriage once a misunderstanding or conflict arises but the proposed law will deny them the chance to promote good morals and counseling services in families.
He is strongly opposed to the clause on property-sharing saying it will cause commotion and conflicts in families.
Bishop Muhiirwa told hundreds of Christians who turned up to celebrate Easter Sunday at Virika Cathedral in Fort Portal that when man and woman are married they become one unit and therefore there is no need of sharing property. He advised Members of Parliament not to mess and support the Marriage and Divorce Bill but instead encourage the people to adhere to the already existing marriage laws.
Muhiirwa’s views are echoed by Rt Rev. Reuben Kisembo, the Bishop of Rwenzori diocese, who says the church can never support such laws that are meant to break marriages.
He discloses that the clergy convened under their umbrella body the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC)and resolved notto support the marriage and divorce bill adding that they have already petitioned the Speaker of Parliament explaining to her that the bill is faulty.
Kisembo said that the bill needs to be revised and tightened citing the clause on sharing property after the ten years of marriage. He explains that this exposes marriage to such vices as theft and prostitution.
Bishop Kisembo told Christians at St. John’s Cathedral in Fort Portal that they should speak their mind when MPs come to consult.
He also blamed the president for promising five million shillings to the MPs to go and consult their electorates saying this is one way of bribing them to pass the bill.
Senior religious leaders have openly opposed the Marriage and Divorce Bill now before parliament. Kampala Archbishop Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, his Church of Uganda counterpart Stanly Ntagali and several other bishops have said the bill is likely to undermine the institution of marriage.
Recently, the local government minister Hon. Adolf Mwesige who is also the MP Bunyangabu County, clashed with Steven Kagwera of Burahya County at women’s day celebrations in Fort Portal, when Mwesige said he opposes the bill for it undermines the integrity of men and encroaches on the privacy of couples. Kagwera said he supported it because it will solve problems of women being battered by their husbands.
President Yoweri Museveni also recently said he would not allow parliament to pass what he called a bad, harsh or insensitive law. He called for wider research and consultations on the law to cater for the wishes, cultural norms and aspirations and the rights of citizens.