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Uganda's Constitutional Court Strikes Down, Amends Discriminatory Legislation


Uganda's Constitutional Court Thursday struck down a law that made it illegal for married women to have sexual relations outside of marriage. The court also amended another law that will see women getting more equal inheritance rights. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Up until Thursday, Section 154 of Uganda's Penal Code Act made it a criminal offense for a married woman to have sexual relations with a man who was not her husband.

If convicted, she was liable to face a maximum of 12 months in jail or pay a fine.

The same punishments applied to married men who had sexual relations with married women who were not their wives. But married men were able to have sexual relations with unmarried women without facing any penalties.

Carol Bunga Idembe is advocacy officer with Uganda Women's Network. She tells VOA Thursday's ruling striking down Section 154 is a big step for Ugandan women.

"It has empowered women to come out outright and stand for their rights because, before, the law was gender insensitive. It was really demeaning the dignity of women," she said.

Idembe says many groups have been lobbying for years to overturn laws they say discriminate against women.

In October of last year, Principle State Attorney Patricia Mutesi filed a petition against the government challenging various provisions of the law regarding adulterous acts. He said that Section 154 was unconstitutional.

Also on Thursday, sections of the Succession Act were amended to give women more equal rights regarding inheritance.

Under the old legislation, the husband was entitled to all of his deceased wife's wealth, but a widow was able to receive only a small percentage of her deceased husband's wealth.

Before he died, a man could also appoint a guardian to his child, which would prevent his widow from having authority over the child.

The Constitutional Court struck down these provisions, saying they discriminated against women.