By Charity M. Ngabirano
Drama ensued on Monday, April 11, when a group of women took to the streets of Kampala, demanding that their husbands raise the amount of money they leave at home for domestic use, commonly known as ssente za kameeza.
The women said that they were tired of concubines or mistresses interfering with the running of their marital homes.
“Wives also deserve trips to Dubai,” a placard from one of the women read.
The women were later arrested on claims that they had held an unlawful protest, before being released.
Many women believe in the saying “my money is mine alone and his money is ours”. They believe that they have to be taken care of by their husbands no matter the circumstances.
The fundamental question in this case would be, are wives really entitled to upkeep, gifts, luxurious trips and treats from their husbands?
What does the law say?
Uganda’s laws on marriages are silent about this particular part of the union and, therefore, this leaves dear wifey at the mercy of hubby.
It is up to the man to determine how much money he leaves behind for home use.
If he does not take you to Dubai, the courts of law cannot order him to.
He decides what to do with his money, and who to give what amounts. The only exception here is cases to do with children.
Children are protected by the Children Act and their parents can be sued at any point in time for neglecting them. This kind of support is also limited to basic needs and, therefore, there is no way you are going to drag a man to court because he has failed to pay for a kid’s trip to London.
If the children are sleeping hungry, are out of school because of lack of fees, are bedridden at home with no access to medical facilities because of money, then their father can be ordered by court to contribute to their well-being in as far as his pockets can stretch.
Upkeep after divorce
With the exception of the 1995 Constitution, the subordinate laws that regulate the distribution, management, and ownership of property during marriage, upon divorce, and death of a spouse are discriminatory of women.
However, the Divorce Act provides for what we call alimony.
Alimony conceptualises spousal support as compensation earned by the economically disadvantaged spouse (normally the wife) through marital investments and as a means of eliminating distorting financial incentives in marriage, as well as a way to relieve financial need.
Under section 24 (1) of The Divorce Act, the court may, on a decree absolute declaring a marriage to be dissolved obtained by a wife, order the husband to secure to the wife such sum of money as, having regard to her fortune, if any, to the ability of the husband, and the conduct of the parties, it thinks reasonable.
Alimony provides a secondary remedy and is available where economic justice and the reasonable needs of the parties cannot be achieved by way of an equitable distribution of the matrimonial property.
The purpose of alimony is not to reward one party and punish the other, but rather to ensure that the reasonable needs of the person who is unable to support herself through appropriate employment are met.
It is an order designed to afford economic justice between the parties when court considers that the resources of the wife are not adequate to meet her reasonable needs and the husband has the ability to pay.
The writer is an advocate
Note: The article is intended to provide information about general statements of law and is not intended to create an advocate-client relationship. Contact a lawyer on specific legal problems