Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAngry Muslims in Uganda are protesting the Domestic Relations Bill, due to be debated in parliament. “One of the contentious issues in the bill,” reports the BBC, “concerns polygamy. It states that a husband should seek permission from his first wife before taking a second.”

In his interview with Charlie Rose last night (taped March 24, before the earthquake), Jan Egeland — Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations — said that Uganda suffers from a mis-impression that it’s doing better than most other African countries. Rose piped in, “Lower rates of AIDs, …” Egeland nodded, and then talked about the largely unreported nightmare unfolding in Northern Uganda with children kidnapped by the “insane” Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to be soldiers. Egeland pointed out that, to put a spotlight on the problem, he made his first visit as U.N. Under-Secretary to Northern Uganda.

Once again, as Booman emphasized below regarding Nigeria, we have religious fervor trumping human rights and self-curative measures. Writes Booman, “It appears that the United States has no monopoly on anti-science zealots.” Or zealots who oppose basic rights for women.

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Below, more about the domestic relations bill, which is wholly moderate, by the way. First, here’s what Egeland has written about Uganda:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAccording to the UN in 2004, more than 80 percent of LRA fighters were abducted children – the rebel group has kidnapped more than 20,000 children since 1988. This has left a gaping hole in the traditional family system of northern Ugandan society.

“Thousands of children have been raped, brutalised, drugged and forced to inflict unspeakable violence on others. The result: a generation whose childhood has forever been stolen from them,” wrote Jan Egeland [PHOTO, IN UGANDA], UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, in the foreword to the 2004 book published by IRIN: “When the Sun Sets, We Start to Worry: An Account of Life in Northern Uganda“. [See SPECIAL NOTE about the book BELOW.]

In a 2004 report, HRW said rebel commanders considered child soldiers “cheap, compliant and effective fighters”.

Former child soldiers report that children are frequently killed or left for dead if they are either injured in battle, become too weak to keep up with the rebels or refuse to perform tasks allocated to them by LRA commanders.

SPECIAL NOTE: I searched the Web to find how you can purchase a copy of the book, When the Sun Sets, We Start to Worry: An Account of Life in Northern Uganda. I found that you can download — or view, chapter by chapter, photo by photo — the entire book, free of charge, at IRIN. The preface is written by Egeland.

About the proposed Ugandan Domestic Relations Bill, from BBC, beyond the bill’s section on polygamy:

The Domestic Relations Bill … is designed to harmonise family relations and protect the rights of women.

But the Muslim community say aspects of the bill contravene Islamic law. Some protesters stood outside the gates of parliament holding placards urging MPs to leave the holy book alone.

They see the bill as an attempt to rewrite the Koran. …

On the issue of inheritance, the proposed law calls on women to be given a fair share of a husband’s wealth.

The Muslim community reject this noting that the Koran stipulates what women may inherit if their husband dies.

One of the key aims of the bill is to protect the rights of women.

Parliamentarians will be debating whether to end cultural practices such as wife inheritance and the paying of dowries or bride price.

But for some, the bill does not go far enough … it does not … condemn marital rape.

Although this demonstration was peaceful, some Muslims say they are prepared to use violent means to resist the proposed law.

Muslim leaders have called for the law to exempt Muslims as they say Islamic law cannot be compromised.

Muslims account for some 12% of the country’s 28 million people.

To read a personal story about polygamy in Uganda, see CNN International’s report.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn particular, members of Uganda’s Muslim majority are up in arms at the mere idea of a ban on polygamy — even though such a ban is unlikely.

If you tell me that I’m not allowed to marry a second wife, but you allow me to have a prostitute, to have a concubine, to have a girlfriend, that would be restricting my civil liberty,” said Sam Sentongo, an Imam at Makerere University.

Detractors say there is no need for legislation on polygamy. The Koran has its own rules about it.

“Most of these [marriage] laws date back to 1904, 1916 and so on,” said Irene Ovongi-Odida of the Uganda Law Reform Commission. “We haven’t had substantive reform over the years, although there’s been a great push for it from various interest groups such as women in the society.”

Emphases mine>

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