A 29-year-old retail businessman, Laban Sabiti in Bishayu Village, Ruhija Sub-county in Rubanda District, Uganda, has been left stranded with five children including a 13-month toddler after his father-in-law, Mr Geoffrey Kakona, reportedly reclaimed his daughter after Sabiti allegedly failed to settle bride price arrears totalling Shs6m.
Sabiti, who has filed a case of child neglect with the police, said, “It is true I delayed paying bride price but I was planning to pay it in December this year. I was surprised when my father in-law came and took my wife, Ms Prize Twikirize even after explaining to him that I was willing to fulfil my traditional obligation.”
The eldest of Mr Sabiti’s children is aged 10, while the youngest was still enjoying the bonding experience of breastfeeding.
Mr Sabiti’s travails highlight the marginalising and weakening of young males who intend to get married.
Ankole Kingdom premier, George William Katatumba notes that traditional norms were not honoured in Mr Sabiti’s case since there was no recognised marriage.
“Since Sabiiti has sired children, he has to pay a fine that usually consists of millet flour, a jerrycan of Tonto, a goat or sheep,” Mr Katatumba reveals.
Mbarara District senior probation officer, Mr Steven Tumwiine, weighed in on the debate, claiming bride price was outlawed by the government.
“According to the laws of Uganda, dowry or bride price was abolished and any person aged 18 years and above has a right to marry a man or woman of her or his choice. So, the old man [Ms Twikirize’s father] is infringing on the rights of his daughter. The old man is also infringing on the rights of his grandchildren by denying them a chance to have parents.”
The Constitutional Court, however, in 2017, dismissed a Mifumi Ltd’s petition where the constitutionality of bride price was challenged at first instance. The court held that “the marriage custom in question was not unconstitutional.” Earlier, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the practice of refunding a bride price on the dissolution of a customary marriage is unconstitutional.