Bride Price as a violation of human rights
The payment of Bride Price by men for their wives as demanded by custom from several tribes in Uganda leads men to treat their wives as mere possessions from whom maximum obedience is extracted. This gives rise to conditions of inequality between men and women which is prohibited by the Constitution of Uganda, which provides that all persons are equal before the law. Bride Price has close links to poverty. Young men and their families have to work hard to accumulate the wealth necessary to pay Bride Price. Because of grinding poverty, parents and clan members ask for exorbitant sums or commodities as Bride Price. Women, especially widows, have now become vulnerable in the face of relatives who want to take away their husbands property and leave them with no support. Girls are married off early to raise income for the family. The demand for the return of Bride Price by men when a marriage breaks down forces many women to remain in the marriage and endure violence and abuse. Demanding refund of Bride Price does not take into account the contribution of the woman to the marriage, the children she has produced and the products of her labour. Finally, a sad practice has crept into the custom of Bride Price whereby when a woman dies before Bride Price has been paid, her relatives refuse the burial to take place until it is paid. The relatives haggle over Bride Price while the body is laid out in the home. This is inhuman and degrading treatment because people have a right to dignity of the person, even in death.
MIFUMI came to learn that traditional and cultural practices across many societies are the main drivers of violence against women and girls. Some cultures perpetuated male dominance and power and control over women and girls, denying women and girls their rights, entitlements and enjoyment. To this end, MIFUMI continuously campaigns for changes and reforms in these cultural practices. MIFUMI successfully lobbied the government and was given the mandate to hold the first social referendum in Uganda in December 2001 which resulted in a successful verdict with 60% saying YES to the reform of bride price.
The referendum pushed the campaign into the public domain exciting debate and that served to strengthen its position in the Domestic Relations Bill.
MIFUMI also held the first international conference on Bride Price in 2004. See the contents here or download the Bride Price Conference Report.
MIFUMI has pushed for reform in laws resulting in the enactment of The Tororo Bridal Gifts Ordinance into law in 2009, and a NO-REFUND ruling on Bride Price by the Uganda Supreme Court on 6th August 2015. This was the ruling of MIFUMI v attorney general often referred to as the MIFUMI case.
Read our research report on Bride Price Poverty and Domestic Violence in Uganda.
What price Bride Price
Embarking on this project was another exciting step in MIFUMI’s bride price campaign. MIFUMI’s ambition was to translate the stories and experiences of survivors from mere paper reports and voice testimonies to complete visual representations. The goal of the project was to amplify the Survivors’ voices and experiences so that we move from MIFUMI staff telling their stories to the survivors telling their own story.
The documentary initiated national debate on the Practice of Bride price in Uganda.
The making of the documentary spanned 9 districts Tororo, Mbale, Soroti, Amolatar, Ngora, Pallisa, Kumi, Mbarara and Kampala. It involved professionals from the legal, education and medical fraternities. It extended to include politicians, social workers, representatives from cultural institutions and most importantly a broad selection of survivors including women, men and children. MIFUMI put together a production team which included a director, production manager, two camera men, two interviewers, a runner and two drivers. The interviewees were selected to represent the broad selection of cases relating to the bride price issue that MIFUMI has encountered over the years. Many of these cases also were intended to highlight to viewers, the contextual and underlying factors that fuel or the demerits of the practice and the extent to which it has negatively affected society’s fabric.
Here is the What Price Bride Price documentary.
Supreme Court ruling
BRIDE PRICE HEARING BEFORE SUPREME COURT 18TH MARCH 2014
The case was before the judges (Tuesday 18th March 2014) at 9am.
In 2010 the Judges in the Constitutional Court made the ruling indicating bride price refund was indeed constitutional, the lone dissenting voice was the late Justice Amos Twinomujuni. The main issues at stake were women’s equality, whether refund of bride price is constitutional and whether bride price causes domestic violence.
MIFUMI held a referendum in 2001 in Tororo District and succeeded in getting a majority vote for reform of bride price. In September 2008, Tororo District passed the Tororo District Bridal Gift Ordinance that prohibits demanding and refunding of Bride Price. Under the ordinance, Bride Price becomes a gift that is freely given and received.
NOTES ON BRIDE PRICE PETITION
The petition on bride price by the constitutional court which was filed by MIFUMI in 2007 was heard on the 8th of September 2009.
MIFUMI a development and women’s rights agency filed a petition to the constitutional court seeking to declare bride price unconstitutional, on the following grounds:
That the demand for and payment of Bride Price by the groom to the parents of the bride as practiced by many communities in Uganda, gives rise to conditions of inequality during marriage contrary to the provision of Art 31(3) of the constitution which demands that men and women shall be accorded equal rights in marriage and its dissolution. MIFUMI argued that the demand and refund of bride price interferes with the exercise of free consent of the parties of the marriage contrary to the demands of art 33(1) of the constitution.
MIFUMI argued that the custom of bride price causes domestic violence so that the woman is subjected to cruel and degrading treatment contrary to article 24 of the constitution as practiced by many communities in Uganda. The respondents to the petition are the Attorney General and one Kakuru Kenneth, a lawyer, who argued the Ankole position.
Here is the ruling on Bride Price. This was the ruling of MIFUMI v attorney general often referred to as the MIFUMI case.