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Ugandan Men Can No Longer Get Their Livestock Back After a Divorce

Uganda's top court outlaws refunds for the so-called "bride price."

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One marriage custom in Uganda has it that a woman’s prospective husband must give her family a so-called “bride price,” which is often paid in livestock.

Women’s rights groups decry the practice as implying that men are basically buying their wives, and on Thursday these activists won an incremental victory in their effort to outlaw the bride price when the Ugandan Supreme Court ruled that men can no longer get a refund in the event of a divorce, according to media reports.

“This is a momentous occasion…. and this ruling will aid the fight against women and girls’ rights abuses,” Evelyn Schiller, a spokesperson for the women’s rights organization Mifumi, which brought the suit, told the BBC.

Schiller’s group asked the court to outlaw the practice altogether, a step the judges refused to take.

Mifumi and other activist groups say that when women seek a divorce and are forced to provide a refund, they often don’t have the resources to, trapping them in unhappy and sometimes violent marriages.

Activists also argue that treating women as property encourages domestic violence, but the court found that the suit against the bride price practice had failed to prove that link.

Photo credit: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll

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