Uganda court throws out petition against polygamy

Monday September 24 2018

Having multiple wives is common in about a quarter of the world’s nations, predominantly conservative male-dominated communities in Africa and Muslim-majority countries where it is part of traditional or religious customs. FOTOSEARCH

By The EastAfrican

Uganda’s Constitutional Court has dismissed a petition seeking to declare polygamy illegal.

Mifumi, a women’s rights advocacy non-governmental organisation, had petitioned the court to rule as unconstitutional the practice that allows men to marry more than one wife.

Mifumi argued that polygamy denied the women rights to equality in marriage and was in violation of Article 21 (1) of the Constitution, which states that all people are equal before the law.

But the five-judge bench court lead by Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo, unanimously dismissed the petition, first filed eight years ago.

The court said the petitioners have failed to demonstrate willingness to pursue the matter by having many unnecessary delays.

The petitioners Monday had asked the judges for another adjournment of the case, which had been scheduled for the hearing of submissions.


The court’s order was welcomed by respondents representing the Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association. Muslim law allows men to marry up to four wives.

The practice is also common in many Ugandan tribes where it is part of traditional. Polygamy is also prevalent in many African communities.

Mifumi has been to court before, with another marriage-related petition. In August 2015, the Supreme Court agreed in part with its petition and ruled that the practice of refunding bride price on the dissolution of a marriage was unconstitutional. The court however did not rule out that bride price itself was unconstitutional.