Women’s Day: Women push for engendered laws

Women's day
Women’s Day celebrated on 8 March, people acknowledge women’s contributions to their families and societies and also stress on the requirement for improved treatment and rights for women. COURTESY PHOTO.

The violation of women’s and girl child rights will continue in the absence of a unified marriage law, the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Uganda has warned. Mercy Munduru, a Senior Advocacy Officer FIDA Uganda, says the international Women’s day celebration should be used to rekindle the push for the marriage law, which has been pending for  over fifty years.

The March 8th 2017 International Women’s day is being commemorated under a global theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030.” In Uganda, the national celebrations are underway in Dokolo District under the theme “Women’s Empowerment in the changing world of work.”

Both the international and local themes are aimed at highlighting economic empowerment of women and girls as well as promoting gender equality.  However, Munduru argues that gender equality cannot be attained until laws guarantee women and girls full and equal dignity before the law.

Munduru says the law on marriage should protect women’s rights and guarantee equality.  Gender activists have been silent about the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2012 after Parliament stayed its consideration in 2013.

Munduru says the courts have since 2004 nullified some marriage-related laws on the basis that they were unconstitutional but the government has been slow at putting in place new ones.  The Domestic Relations Bill later renamed The Marriage and Divorce Bill has been awaiting approval by Parliament for the last 50 years.

It seeks to reform and consolidate the marriage and divorce law. It would also clarify article 33(1) of the constitution that accords women full and equal dignity of the person with men. The Bill spells out the rights protected during the duration and dissolution of marriage, which include the right to marry, consent, marriage gifts, conjugal and property rights.

At the International level, the Women’s day is being used to rally policy makers to provide equal opportunities for both women and men. Eunice Musiime , the Executive Director of Akina Mama Wa Africa, a women advocacy group says even the Labour laws in Uganda are still a disadvantage to women and girls.

Musiime says women and girls have been the biggest victims of unemployment but little has been done to address their plight. She says lack of such protection has rendered the girls vulnerable to international trafficking.

Another issues being explored at the international level is the need to quantify unpaid Labour for girls and women in the domestic setting. Activists like Rita Achiro of Uganda Women’s Network feel that the country is suffering a huge cost of unpaid work given that close to eighty percent of women in Uganda are in the category of unpaid labor force.

Achiro says the unpaid for care work in Uganda should not just be looked at in terms of money. She says it should be looked at in terms of the time and social costs that women and girls put in.

– Uganda Radio Network