By Maria Opolot Aminat.
Marriage registration for a long time has been considered unpopular and unnecessary among the refugee population in Uganda. This is owing to the various cultural beliefs, ignorance, negligence and many times a sincere inability to cover the possible costs involved in the process of acquiring a document to make a marriage legal.
Unbeknown to many is the fact that marriage registration comes with multiple purposes which range from being proof of marriage, a safeguard for marital benefits like insurance, pension, citizenship, family resettlements, immigration, emigration as well as inheritance of estates upon the death of a spouse.
With funding from EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), CAFOMI in partnership with Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provide Information, counselling and legal assistance on marriage registration through individual and group information sessions, legal counselling, drafting marriage affidavits, payment of necessary fees, coordinating and maintaining regular contact with local authorities and departments responsible for the same as well as ensuring that there are no hiccups in the process.
The laws governing marriage registration in Uganda authorize the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) as the government agency responsible for registration of all marriages that take place in the country. The forms of marriages recognized in Uganda today are, the religious marriages (Christian/church, Muslim and Hindu marriage) the civil marriage and finally the customary marriage.
In a bid to promote marriage registration, we encourage refugees that are above the age of 18, of sound mind and are single or widowed to contract civil marriages as they have by far proved to be the cheapest and least stressful form of marriage in Uganda. All fees associated with contracting this form of marriage are fully paid for and transportation of the couple to and from the office of the registrar is catered for in an incentive program availed to encourage the refugees to legalize their unions.
“The only marriages I knew about were the cultural and church marriage and these seemed to be expensive but now I know that I can marry the mother to my children without spending any money! I can’t wait!” Said Nsabimana Anestori one of the beneficiaries.
A civil marriage is defined as one performed, recorded and recognized by a government official who in this case is the Registrar General, the Registrar of marriages for Kampala or the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for marriages conducted in districts outside Kampala. The requirements one has to meet before contracting a civil marriage are as follows, A Refugee family attestation card/ Refugee I.D, RWC1/LC1 letter clearly stating the duration of residence in the district in which the marriage is intended to be celebrated, 2 passport sized photographs, a marriage affidavit commissioned then registered with URSB, a letter issued by OPM on the marital status of those intending to marry, evidence of payment of the prescribed fees to any bank after generating a payment registration number (PRN) from the URA portal and finally a filled in notice of marriage form which can be downloaded from the URSB website.
“When a couple first steps into the office, I walk them through the requirements necessary for achieving a civil marriage, I draft the marriage affidavits for both parties and ensure that they are stamped by the commissioner of oaths. I go ahead to assist them with the payment of the necessary fees at the bank.” Said Lilian Masika, CAFOMI, legal Officer, Nakivale settlement.
On the day of the marriage solemnization, the couple, along with their 2 adult witnesses are transported to the district offices and they appear before the Registrar who performs the ceremony and thereafter avails a marriage certificate to the newlywed couple.
While already at the forefront of advocating for gender equality, CAFOMI believes that marriage registration will decrease the risk of child marriages and lower the rate of discrimination and abuse against women as they will enjoy rights and privileges that accrue to them for legalizing their union.
Author is Legal Assistant at CAFOMI.