To be or not to be… married, that is the question: Emerging perceptions of marriage in Kanungu, Uganda

To be or not to be… married, that is the question: Emerging perceptions of marriage in Kanungu, Uganda

Author: Arti Lad, LSE MSc Gender, Policy and Inequalities student, IARS Communications and Policy Intern In the UK, if a man approached a woman he barely knew and declared his “love” for her, whilst interrogating her with questions such as “how old are you?”, “are you married?” and “do you have any babies”, expecting to receive a response, we (society) would view this as an infringement of personal privacy. Nevertheless, when this happened to me three months ago in Kanungu, Uganda, I saw it as a matter worth investigating. I wondered, in this case, what’s “love” got to do with it? Why did the man, I barely knew, want to marry me? As a foreigner or, in correct Ugandan terms, a “Mzungu” (which literally translates into “white person”/of European descent), am I perceived as a figure of monetary gain? Or, was the gesture that I witnessed the conventional way of proposing a marriage in Uganda? As flattered as I was, however, my attention diverted to understanding the socio-cultural importance of Ugandan marriages – a topic which seems to be commonly discussed within the Kanungu community. Are matrimonies based upon “love”, consensual contracts, or obligation and duty? To address these forms of unions, I asked the following questions to members of the public in Kanungu town centre so as to better understand their beliefs, values and cultural norms: What is the importance of marriage in Uganda? What is a woman’s role in the household? What is your view on “bride price”? What do you think about married men having more than one wife? Do you think that men and women are...