New law eases marriage restrictions on widows

Members of parliament during the plenary sitting, discussing the amendment of the law governing persons and family on Wednesday. Courtesy

A widowed woman will no longer have to wait for 300 days from the death of her first husband in order to remarry, once the new law governing family and persons comes into force.

The law amending law N° 32/2016 of 28/08/2016 governing persons and family was passed by the Chamber of Deputies’ plenary sitting on Wednesday.

Specifically, article 16 which repeals article 215 of the 2016 law, states that death of one of the spouses immediately dissolves the marriage.

Although the current law allows a widowed woman to remarry, it provides that she can only do so after 300 days from the death of her first husband.

The reasoning behind this was that in case the widow was left pregnant by the deceased husband, no confusion should arise over the paternity of the unborn child.

This period, it adds, would only be interrupted by childbirth or pregnancy certificate issued by a recognised medical doctor.

This provision had triggered concerns by activists who said that it was unfair for women because a widowed man was not subjected to similar conditions.

Emma Furaha Rubagumya, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary 

Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender, said the article is being scrapped because it contradicts the principle of equality between men and women.

In addition, she said, it was infringing on one’s rights to privacy.

“There is also what is akin to violating a woman’s privacy because it [the article] ordered her to show whether she is pregnant or not prior to being allowed to get remarried after the 300 days,” she said.

We assessed this provision and realised that this article should be amended, she added.

“The country has made considerable progress in terms of gender equality. So, a wife and husband should be given equal rights to enter a new marriage in case of death of one of the spouse without limitations,” she said.  

With the advancement in technology, Rubagumya said, in case the new husband suspects that the child born from the remarried wife is not his, other methods can be applied to reveal the biological father of the child.

“Therefore, the provision that a wife whose husband has died should wait that long to remarry has been removed,” she said.

The amended law also allows hospitals and health facilities to register births and deaths as well as issue.

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