By Mustapha Ogunsakin
“A woman is not a commodity that can be bought in the market”. With these words, the Ugandan Supreme Court at the weekend abolished the age old tradition of women refunding dowry paid by their husbands on divorce. In a 6-1 decision on Thursday August 4, 2015, the court said that the tradition infringes on a woman’s right to divorce.
The decision of the court is sequel to suit filed by Mifumi, a women organization challenging the practice of refunding the bride price to the Man upon dissolution of marriage.
The Apex court upheld that the practice, it is not only unconstitutional and should be banned, it also suggests that women were in the market place where they could be bought and it infringes on a woman’s right to divorce.
However, the Justices did not find that the bride price itself was unconstitutional. Supporters of a ban on the bride price, including the organization Mifumi which brought the suit, said the practice makes women the property of their husbands.
The group welcomed the court’s decision; despite the court rejecting that bride pricing itself was unconstitutional. Supporters of bride pricing say that the practice is an honor and a sign that the couple is entering into a respectful marriage.
Typically, a wife is expected to refund her husband the bride price upon divorce. The refund is usually paid in livestock. However, most women do not have the same wealth as their husbands.