By Charity M. Ngabirano
Getting a marriage offer from the person your heart beats for, is one of the best things to ever happen to people in love. You rush to inform your close friends and relatives, who will then spread the good news to all and sundry and preparations start.
However, what was supposed to be happy event turned sad for Mariam Nalubega when the person she was preparing to receive, did not show up for the introduction ceremony at Naggalama Cell in Nakifuma-Naggalama Town Council in Mukono district on Saturday.
What does the law say about breach of promise to marry?
In Uganda, a breach of promise to marry is a cause of action in court even though there is no specific provision for the breach. There can be no action for breach to marry unless a contract to marry has been made. Therefore, if one fails to fulfill a promise to marry, it is treated similar to a breach of contract.
A contract is defined as an agreement made with the free consent of the parties to contract, for a lawful consideration and with the intention to be legally bound. This contract (promise to marry) need not take any particular form or writing. And a promise by one person to marry another is not binding unless and until that other person also promises to marry the first person.
Mutual promises to marry may be implied from the conduct of the parties. For instance, if you have been dating, then he proposes to you and you accept the ring, it means that you have both mutually promised to marry each other. There is, therefore, a breach if one of the parties prepares for the marriage ceremony, and the other party, without any reasonable excuse for not wanting to go through it, does not show up, and yet they had agreed to it, in the first place.
Remedies for Nalubega
Nalubega can sue for general damages for the emotional hurt she went through and reduction of marriage chances since her issue even went public.
She can also ask for special (compensatory) damages for the expenses she incurred to prepare for the introduction ceremony, and punitive (exemplary) damages to serve as a punishment for the man’s behaviour and also an example for other individuals not to engage in the same type of conduct.
However, Nalubega has to show that she lacked knowledge of the fact that the groom-to-be would not show up. She also has to show that she was ready and willing to perform her part of the contract, which, in this case, is clearly evidenced by her going ahead to prepare for the introduction ceremony.
Defences for the intended groom
We have not heard the man’s side of the story, so we cannot be specific on what defences he can present. However, generally, these are some of the defences;
If the man had released or discharged Nalubega from this promise and she still went ahead and insisted on setting up for the function. This discharge can be express or implied.
Some women are dumped, but because they already had wishes for marriage and fear public scrutiny on why the relationship ended, they go ahead with the preparations, thinking that the guy will come around when he notices that she is serious.
Misrepresentation of fact: In order to establish this defence, he must prove that he entered into the contract to marry as a result of a material misrepresentation or fact by Nalubega. If she had fraudulently concealed any material facts, then the man is not bound by his promises or if after making the promise, he became aware of Nalubega’s conditions, which may include diseases, which would make it improper or unsafe to enter into the marriage.
Nalubega blames father
When her boyfriend did not turn up for the introduction ceremony, with tears rolling down her face, Nalubega placed the blame on her father, Hamis Wamala Mugule, for frustrating her.
“I thank you for what you have done to frustrate me, but I will not take revenge on you. My prayer is for Allah to pay you back as per His wishes,” Nalubega, who had just returned from the Middle East, told her father.
Wamala said he was initially involved in the organisation of his daughter’s function, but that at the last minute, she changed the venue from his home to her uncle’s home, claiming his home was not presentable.
He, however, said as a Muganda, it was not in order for him to go to the home of his brother-in-law to grace the introduction ceremony of his daughter.
Can Wamala be held culpable for groom not showing up?
Social media has been awash with comments blaming Nalubega for abandoning her poor father, thus her boyfriend being a no-show.
Chemusto M Brian posted on Facebook: “Respect all your parents… You can’t marry the love of your own with parents’ disapproval! That’s bad manners.”
Faith B Diamond added: “She really needs to apologise to her father and everything will be okay.”
This is more of a moral issue. However, we have seen parents who have boycotted their children’s weddings or not been invited and they went on successfully without them.
Legally, Wamala has no case to answer over the groom’s not showing up for the introduction ceremony. Unless he had something to do with the man’s disappearance, for instance, kidnap, he is not to blame.
What does the Islamic law state?
Nalubega is a Muslim and for the purposes of the article, we shall assume her boyfriend is a Muslim.
Under Islamic law, agreements maybe entered into by the parents of the intended spouses. The girl’s parents agree that the son from the other family will marry their daughter and vice versa. However, it should be noted that until the contract to marry and the actual marriage takes place, no contractual obligations arise as between the intended spouses. Therefore, no suit for breach of agreement (between the parents) to marry can be instituted.
However, where gifts or ornaments have been exchanged between the two families, then these can be returned if the agreement is broken.
The writer is an advocate
Note: The article is intended to provide information about general statements of law and is not intended to create an advocate-client relationship. Contact a lawyer on specific legal problems