KAMPALA– Robinah Nakabuubi, A mother of four children, is frustrated after her bid to get justice seems to have hit a dead end.
Nakabuubi 37, is worried that she may be left in the cold after working so hard for 12 years to establish what she thought was a family empire with a boyfriend she assumed would eventually be her husband.
The couple built houses for rent, own a grocery and a farm all registered in the man’s names.
Their once rosy relationship has now hit the rock bottom, she wants out. The trouble is that Nakabuubi and her mate have not contracted any form of marriage therefore it is her word against his when it comes to sharing property.
Uganda has got several forms of recognized marriages. These are customary, Muslim, Church, Civil and Hindu marriages. Co-habiting or simply introducing a spouse to one’s parents (Kukyala) are not recognized unions and do not come with any entitlements.
A person in such a relationship therefore may be referred to as a husband or wife but when it comes to entitlements they are not recognized.
The law enforcers register many cases of domestic violence resulting from property ownership and jilted lovers struggling to stay in illegal unions. “Many people live together on a gentleman’s agreement not anticipating the dangers they face if their relationship is to go bad. Many of those cases of violence and even murder would not be so common if people bothered to legalise their marriages,” says John Kagoda, a lawyer.
If for example a person’s job gives them insurance for a spouse, the person that is not legally married would not benefit from the health insurance cover as there is no evidence of the two being married.
The same situation applies in case of immigration and emigration. If a man or woman gets a job in a foreign country, and they have a spouse not registered, the spouse would miss out on all opportunities they would otherwise have been entitled to.
Sheikh Ramadhan Mugoya says the reason many Ugandans continue co-habiting is the love for pomp.
“People want pompous marriage ceremonies, so they wait to raise money to hold big events that everyone will be talking about. Islam marriages are so easy to contract for example, but we also have people that simply refuse to perform Nikkah because they want big things,” he said.
“Four children together and there is nothing legal? That man is not serious. The woman is also not wise, how you expect a person that cannot perform even an easiest form of marriage to offer you any property you do not legally own?” he asked in reference to Nakabuubi’s story.
The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) has been calling on married people to register their marriages. URSB is the Government Agency mandated to register all marriages that take place in Uganda. It is the responsibility of the couple to ensure they are wedded by a certified celebrant and follow up the registration of their marriage.
No matter the form of marriage, it is mandatory for all marriage celebrants to register the marriages that they officiate over with URSB. If a marriage is not registered, one cannot use the union to claim any benefits in case of a breakup or death.
The right thing to do is to check with the URSB to confirm if your marriage is registered. Fake marriage certificates cannot be accepted as evidence in courts of law.
Every certificate of marriage that has been filed with URSB is admissible as evidence of the marriage to which it relates; in any court of law.
According to information on the registration body’s website many people spend huge amounts of money contracting marriages to parties that have subsisting marriages and have no legal capacity to remarry. Therefore in Uganda now, marriage registration is continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal.
The Registrar General is the Registrar of Marriages for the Kampala Capital City, whereas the Chief Administrative Officer of a District is the Registrar of Marriages in the District.
Registration of customary marriages is affected by the Sub County chief or Town Clerk of the area where it took place, and a Customary Marriage Certificate duly signed and issued by the Sub County chief or Town Clerk. This certificate, however, must then be registered with URSB.
Church and Civil marriages are monogamous in nature, while customary and Muslim marriages are potentially polygamous. A customary marriage can however, be converted into a Church marriage if still monogamous in nature.