The Supreme Court ruled that refunding lobola upon dissolution of a customary marriage was unconstitutional.
This judgment followed an appeal by local women’s rights group, Mifumi, after a lower court decision. It argued the practice contributed to domestic violence.
“Refunding compromises the dignity of the woman,” Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper, adding that paying a dowry back implied a woman was in a marriage as though on “loan”.
Mifumi said the judge’s decision was a “landmark in the history of Uganda” and that meant women were “now free to walk out of an abusive relationship without fear” of how their family would pay back the bride price.
Mifumi said the payment of a bride price “reduces the status of women to cattle, to property that can be earned and paid for and exchanged for goods”.
The group, along with 12 other individuals, first launched a 2007 petition at the Constitutional Court, arguing that the refunding of bride price portrayed women “as an article in a market for sale”, amounting to “degrading treatment”.