Not recognising cohabitation discriminates against women facing GBV

By Dr Atuki Turner

I refer to the article ‘Cohabiting Partners to Miss Out on Property Sharing’ in the New Vision of February 10.

I humbly contend that the issue of cohabitation is not going to go away because it is the living reality for thousands, if not millions of women in Uganda.

Many of these women are not cohabiting out of choice or free will, but by force of circumstances.

To deny all these women legitimacy and potentially property, with many of them poor, illiterate, or out of employment, and with only their relationships to hang on to, is once again an indication of gender discrimination.

I urge the legislators to pause and reflect on this.

I would encourage research on a national scale so we are guided by the enormity of just how many women, will be detrimentally affected if this clause is passed into law.

If this matter is not cleared, it will also have implications for women facing domestic violence because when women are thrown out of their homes by spouses with whom they are cohabiting, they usually have no recourse to the law because the law does not recognise them as having any rights.

This is an injustice to women and I urge the government to rethink its position.

Otherwise, I applaud the bill in several respects, however, there are some areas where further clarity would help.

For instance, the Bill provides on the one hand that the surviving spouses can take an interest in one of the spouses; property acquired before marriage, and on the other hand, it states that in case a surviving spouse had separated from the intestate at the time of death, then she cannot take an interest in the estate – this appears to lack equity of treatment.

It is a provision that also negatively impacts spouses who have escaped marriages because of violence and abuse and cannot easily retrieve their property during the lifetime of their spouse due to power dynamics.

Secondly, under Clause 14c – where the estate is survived by a spouse or a dependent relative but no lineal descendants, the Bill proposes that the spouse OR the dependent relative as the case may be, should receive 100% of the whole of the property of the intestate.

What happens where the intestate is survived by both spouse and dependent relatives.

This needs further clarity.

The writer is the executive director of MIFUMI

Link to original article from NewVision: