Platform for Labour Action (PLA)

Ensuring democracy and social justice in the world of work.

Marriage is the voluntary union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.

The constitution of Uganda provides that men and women of the age of 18 years and above have a right to marry and form a family and are entitled to equal rights before, during and after the marriage has been dissolved.

It is important to know that only those who are married have rights to inherit each other’s’ property. Those who do not fall under the categories of marriage recognised by the laws of Uganda do not benefit from the estate of a deceased person as a wife (widow) or husband (widower) unless specially written in a will.

  • This marriage is a monogamous union of one man and one wife.
  • It is also important to note that if a man has married many wives customarily he cannot choose one to marry in church.

  • Both the man and woman must be single at the time of the marriage. In other words, none of them should be any existing marriage which is recognised under the law.
  • The man and woman must not have close blood relations with each other because they do, this will be incest which is a criminal offence punishable under the law.
  • Both parties must be above 18 years of age. If they are below 21 but above 18 years, they must seek the consent of their parents or guardians to marry.

  • Notice of 21 days should be given in the form of wedding banns which are read in church for three consecutive weeks before the marriage takes place. The purpose of these banns is to enable whoever may have any reason preventing the two to get married to give it before the marriage takes place.
  • The church must be licensed by the minister of public service.
  • The priest or pastor must be licensed to wed
  • The ceremony must take place between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm
  • The church doors should be open for all to see the ceremony
  • The marriage must be recorded in the register kept by the minister of the church.
  • A marriage certificate must be issued and signed by the priest or minister, the bride, groom and two witnesses who may be the matron and best man.

  • Unless the parties have agreed before the marriage, whatever property one owned before the marriage remains his/her property.
  • All properties acquired during the marriage are jointly owned.

This marriage is potentially polygamous and a man may marry up to four wives provided he can take care and love them equally.

  • Although Islamic law considers 16 years as the age at which a Moslem may marry, the constitution provides 18 years as the age at which individuals wishing to marry may marry.
  • The parties must not have any close blood relations with each other.
  • A man marries up to four wives provided that he can treat them equally in all ways, thus, love, material possession and sexual intercourse.
  • The man and woman must freely consent to the marriage.
  • The man must give the woman “mahari” which is property of a certain value before she can allow marrying him. The value she sets cannot be bargained upon.
  • A man and woman cannot remarry during “eda” that is the three months waiting period after the divorce or death of a spouse.

  • The marriage is entered into by an offer and an acceptance, which is reached through the mutual consent of the husband or his representative and the guardian or representative of the bride in the presence of two witnesses, usually in a ceremonial gathering.
  • The man and woman’s “wali” (a male trustee) and at least two witnesses must be present at the ceremony.
  • The ceremony is usually performed before a “mwalimu” either at home or in a mosque.

  • The property that has been given to the wife i.e. “mahari” belongs to her since it was a gift before the marriage.
  • Upon dissolution of the marriage, the wife retains the “mahari”

  • This type of marriage is conducted by the chief administrative officer or the registrar of marriage in the ministry of justice.
  • It is a monogamous marriage of one man and one woman.
  • The essential requirements are similar to those under the church marriages.
  • It is important to note that this marriage is not a contract and therefore it is binding for life.

  • A notice of the intention of the parties to marry must be displayed on the notice board outside the registrar of marriage office or the chief administrative officer’s office for a period of 21days.
  • A fee of UGX7000 is payable in order for the marriage to be solemnised.
  • The ceremony must take place between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
  • Two witnesses must be present
  • The marriage is recorded in the register and a marriage certificate issued by the registrar or CAO

  • The registrar or CAO may refuse to marry a couple where:
  • One or both parties intending to get married is already married
  • The parties getting married have a close blood relation.
  • One or both parties are below 21 years of age and no consent to marry has been obtained from the parents or guardians where one or both parties are 18 years but below 21 years of age.

  • The person should write to the registrar/CAO giving the information together with the proof within the 21 days in which the notice is on display.
  • The registrar/CAO will write the word “caveat” or “forbidden” in the register where the couple’s names appear.
  • He/ she will then call a meeting of the couple and people complaining and hear both sides of the story and then make a decision accordingly.
  • The registrar may refer the matter to be determined by the high court whose decision will be final.
  • If the information is true, then the marriage will not take place.

A customary marriage is potentially polygamous. This means that a man can marry as many wives as he wishes under the customary norms and practices of his area. However, he must fulfil each woman’s customary requirements.

  • Both parties must be above 18 years of age
  • The couple must not have close blood relations.
  • The woman must be single but the man may already be married. However, the man must not be married under church or civil marriage. The subsisting marriage should be customary
  • The marriage here is between and therefore, the consent of the parents to the marriage is required
  • Bride price is paid as a form of acceptance of the marriage. However, this may be waved and a letter waving the payment of bride price written by the woman’s family.

  • This marriage can only be converted into a church marriage where there are only one wife and one husband.
  • Where a man has more than one wife, he cannot convert this marriage into a church or even a civil marriage. The man must first divorce the other wives in order to convert the customary marriage into civil or church marriage.

  • These vary from community to community or from tribe to tribe.
  • The marriage may be celebrated anywhere and at any time and should be witnessed by at least two people.
  • A certificate of marriage is issued by the sub-county chief after this marriage is celebrated. It is witnessed by at least two people who attended the traditional marriage ceremony. A fee is paid and the certificate issued within six months after the marriage has taken place.

  • Cohabitation is not recognised as a form of marriage in Uganda regardless of the duration of the time the two have lived together.
  • The fact that the man and woman have produced children does not make them husband and wife.
  • They, therefore, do not enjoy privileges that accrue to parties who are married. Thus, the provisions relating to spouses in the sharing of property and succession do not apply to people living in cohabitation.
  • A person who qualifies in law as a husband or wife is the only one who can benefit from the deceased spouse’s estate/property.
  • A cohabiting can, however, benefit from the property only if it was registered in both their names as joint owners. However, the connotation should not be that of a wife (i.e. Mr And Mrs...), but simply two people having joint ownership over a piece of land.


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