The Socio-Legal Dynamics Of Customary Marriage In Uganda

This publication was authored by: Donnas Ojok

Abstract / Summary

Obong offered dowry for Apio in January 2017; seven cows, twelve goats, a bag of salt, soap and sugar were some of the items presented. The couple did not go to their sub-county headquarters to get registered and be issued a customary marriage certificate by the sub-country chief. When the dowry was paid, Apio became Obong’s wife. Culture and society expect that she diligently plays her wifely triple role of reproduction, production and contributing towards community self-help and other empowerment initiatives. Her family and friends know her as Obong’s wife. Similarly, Obong became the oko to Apio’s family. The two are now wife and husband by all cultural and social standards. Apio became, Ciko Obong and Obong became Cwar Apio. The irony, though, is that Obong and Apio are oblivious of the fact that they are not legally marriedtheir marriage is not a valid one at least according to law. It is a mere union because it was not registered. A fundamental question thus ensues: why should their union not be regarded as legal and valid yet they are expected to love, fulfil conjugal duties, show affection and be companions just like their registered counterparts? Finding relevant answers to this question and contextualizing it within a socio-legal framework underpins the logic of this paper.