Hearing of the Mifumi Bride Price Appeal Hits a Snag Top story

4681 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, the Mifumi lead lawyer argues that bride price should be made optional and not mandatory by parents.

Hearing of an appeal by Mifumi challenging the constitutional court ruling upholding bride price hit a snag on Tuesday morning. The case failed to take off because Justice Kenneth Kakuru, one of the respondents to suite was not served. Court wants to ascertain whether Justice Kakuru is still opposed to the abolishment of bride price since was appointed to the Court of Appeal. At the time of making his submissions Justice Kakuru was an advocate.
The other respondent in the appeal is the Attorney General who was represented in court by Patricia Mutesi, the Principal State Attorney.  The panel of seven justices led by Bart Katureebe adjourned the hearing of the appeal to the next convenient session. The other justices included; Benjamin Odoki, Jotham Tumwesigye, John Wilson Tsekooko, Ester Kisakye, Christine Kitumba and Giladino Okello. Court ordered the registrar of the court to find out from Justice Kakuru on whether he is still interested in the matter or not.
Court also directed the respondents who were represented by human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi to file their written submissions within 14 days and that the attorney general replies to the same within seven days. This public interest appeal arose in April 2010 after Mifumi, a Tororo-based non-governmental organization and women’s rights agency and 12 others petitioners; appealed to the Supreme Court following the rejection of their petition by the Constitutional Court for alleged failure to convince court that payment of bride price causes domestic violence.
The Constitutional Court had in a majority judgment of 4:1, held that there are varied causes of spousal abuse, and that court cannot with certainty rule that bride price is unconstitutional on such a ground. The Constitutional Court went on to observe that it is true bride price is a key factor in domestic abuse and women being treated as inferiors but that is no justification for the court to make a blanket prohibition of the practice

Mifumi argues that payment of the same by men for their wives as demanded by custom from several tribes in Uganda, leads men to treat their women as mere possessions from whom maximum obedience is extracted, thus perpetuating conditions of inequality between men and women, prohibited by Art. 21(1), (2) of the constitution. Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, the Mifumi lead lawyer argues that bride price should be made optional and not mandatory by parents.

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The petitioners also argue that the demand for bride price by parents of the bride from prospective sons-in-law as a condition precedent to a valid customary marriage is contrary to Art 31 (3) of the Constitution that provides that marriage shall be entered into with the free consent of the man and a woman intending to marry. Further, the petitioners argue that the demand for bride price portrays the woman as an article in a market for sale, which amounts to degrading treatment in breach of the constitution that guarantees that every person shall be treated with dignity.

But the attorney general and Justice Kakuru argue that the term bride price means different things in different cultures of Uganda and as such, court cannot make a uniform interpretation of such a practice and make it unconstitutional. Rwakafuzi also says that they are going to add submissions to oppose the bride price refund. He describes it as unfair and unjust considering it does not take into account which of the parties is at fault of ending the marriage..