Marital rape bill splits Ugandans

By Godfrey Olukya
Posted on Thursday, 7 March 2013 13:58

The bill has largely remained unpopular, with most male legislators opposing it, but a section of female Members of Parliament is increasingly becoming vocal, as they push for its signing.

Ongoing deliberations on the proposed law have sparked impassioned debates on sexuality in the marriage institution, with some religious leaders calling for a thorough public debate before the passing of the bill.

I have lived with my wife for more than 10 years but at times when she is not in the mood, I somehow force her

If passed into law, the clause could see men who are accused of marital rape being slapped with five-year prison terms as well as fines not exceeding 2.5 million Uganda shillings ($1,000).

Unlike the anti-homosexuality bill that gained both religious and popular support, the marriage rape clause has met stiff resistance, with men arguing that preventing forced sex with their wives is un-African.

“In the African culture there is no marital rape,” argued Apolo Mukalazi, a school teacher in Kampala. “I have never heard of marital rape among African families.”

Those opposed to the bill also expressed misgivings on the sharing of property after divorce.

“It is unfortunate that our legislators are copying western culture and making laws that will oppress us,” added Mukalazi.

Alfred Okong, a mechanic in Gulu town in northern Uganda seemed to justify marital rape, saying it was unacceptable that a woman would decline sexual advances from her husband.

“I have lived with my wife for more than 10 years but at times when she is not in the mood, I somehow force her,” he said.

“She has never complained to anyone. If such laws are put in place, I might end up in prison.”

Women on the other hand have thrown their weight behind the proposed law arguing that widespread marital rape is the cause of a host of health complications among married women.

They said in some cases they have been coerced by their partners into having sexual relations immediately after giving birth.

“It is common to admit women who develop complications after their husbands have forced [themselves on their wives] a few days after childbirth,” says Rebecca Namuddu, a medical officer.

“Some women have died from such complications.”

In defence of the proposed law, MPs Robert Sebunya, Mariam Nalubega and Milton Muwuma told a press conference at parliament in Kampala that many women had died because of marital rape, while others were left with permanent injuries.

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