On Thursday, the Supreme Court in Uganda ruled that refunding of goods paid to a bride’s family as bride price after divorce was illegal. This news has reportedly sparked celebration by rights groups who say women would no longer be “chained in violent relationships”.
After local women’s rights group “Mifumi” launched an appeal arguing the practice contributed to domestic violence, the Supreme Court ruled that refunding a woman’s bride price upon dissolution of a customary marriage was unconstitutional,
“Refunding compromises the dignity of the woman,” Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said in the ruling, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper, adding that paying a dowry back to a woman’s family implies that a woman was in a marriage as though on “loan”.
Mifumi said the judge’s decision was a “landmark in the history of Uganda” that meant women were “now free to walk out of an abusive relationship without fear of how their family would pay back the bride price.”
Mifumi also say that the payment of a bride price “reduces the status of women to cattle, to property that can be earned and paid for and exchanged for goods.”
The charity, along with 12 other individuals, first launched a 2007 petition at the Constitutional Court, arguing that the refunding of bride price portrayed women “as an article in a market for sale” amounting to “degrading treatment”. The court at the time however dismissed the petition in 2010, with the group then taking the case to the Supreme Court.