URSB Clarifies on Validity of Customary Marriages

The Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB), visit this a government Agency mandated to register all marriages that take place in the country has come out to clarify on the issue of the validity of customary marriages.

In a statement released on Monday June 6th, healing Bemanya Twebaze, order the URSB Registrar General noted that “A marriage is defined as a formal union between a man and woman recognized by law by which they become husband and wife and creates legal rights and obligations to the spouses. No matter the form of marriage, it is mandatory for all marriage celebrants to register the marriages that they officiate over with URSB.”

The clarification comes following a recent media debate about the same where holes were poked into the validity of the form of marriage.

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Bemanya said that Uganda has got several forms of recognized marriages including customary, Muslim, Church, Civil and Hindu marriages.

“Customary marriages are celebrated according to the rites of an African Community and one of the parties to the marriage must be a member of that community. Muslim marriages are celebrated in accordance with the rites and observances of the Moslem faith, between persons professing the Moslem religion. Church marriages are celebrated in any licensed place of worship according to the rites or usages of marriages observed by a particular religious denomination. Hindu marriages are celebrated between Hindus whereas Civil marriages are celebrated in the offices of the Registrars of Marriages,” Bemanya said, in the statement.

“Upon completion of a marriage in the CAO’s office, duly licensed Church, Mosque, Temple or other authorized establishment, the couples are issued with a marriage certificate by the person who officiated over their ceremony. The marriage celebrant should file marriage returns with the Registrar of Marriages within one month of conducting the marriage ceremony. This can be done by the marriage celebrant transmitting an official letterhead from the CAO’s office, duly licensed Church, Mosque, Temple or other authorized establishment; and a certified copy of the marriage extract to URSB,” the statement further read.

Bemanya further clarified that the Registrar General is the Registrar of Marriages for the Kampala Capital City, whereas the Chief Administrative Officer of a District is the Registrar of Marriages in the District.

“Registration of customary marriages is effected by the Sub County chief or Town Clerk of the area where it took place, and a Customary Marriage Certificate duly signed and issued by the Sub County chief or Town Clerk. This certificate, however, must then be registered with URSB.”

He added that customary marriages can however be converted into into Church marriages if they are monogamous in nature.

Why Register Marriages?

A registered marriage is a safeguard for spousal benefits like insurance, pension, citizenship, immigration, emigration, family resettlements as well as inheritance of estates upon the demise of a spouse.

Marriage records provided to URSB by marriage celebrants are also used to compile a credible marriage data bank which is a safe guard against bigamy, polygamy and polyandry in the case of Church and Civil marriages.


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