After at least 25 years on the shelf, a women-led push to pass the controversial Marriage and Divorce bill in Parliament has caused ripples of unease in some circles.
President Museveni said during the NRM caucus meeting at State House Entebbe on Friday that if the draft legislation is rushed, it could destabilise the peace and security of the country.
"I am not going to accept reckless ways of operating. Very liberal ideas may disturb our peace. You may destabilise our politics and security," Museveni told the MPs.
Museveni made the statements largely in response to concerns from MPs Peter Lokeris (Chekwii) and Margaret Iriama (Moroto Woman) -both from Karamoja - who said their communities do not support the suggestion that a married couple should divorce.
"That is their way of life. You have not given them time or even educated them, then you rush and say we want you to be modern under a modern law. You have heard what Hon Lokeris is saying," Museveni said.
Terming it a bill for "elite women," Museveni told the MPs to concentrate on issues that unite people not those that are controversial.
He suggested that the word "divorce" be dropped from the title of the bill.
"There is no need to emphasise the word divorce. Let the title be Marriage Bill. In there you can say if this and that went wrong in marriage, this is the provision...but I would like to hear from a Karimojong because I don't want you to distort harmony among some of our communities. They believe strongly in their traditional way of marriage," Museveni reportedly said.
Lokeris had earlier said that in their culture, divorce is an abomination.
"When you are going to marry, you inform your relatives. They collect cattle for you, even if you are rich. These cows, we take to all relatives of the girl. Even a blind man receives a cow. When other clan members' children marry, they also remember you. If our way is obstructed, what type of society shall we be? In fact, for us when we marry, we don't think of divorce," Lokeris said.
Museveni, those present say, was in a bullish mood and fell short of suggesting that the bill should be shelved for now.
"Why are you in a hurry with this bill? Those methods of work must stop. It is for political novices. You must have extensive consultations about the contentious issues in the bill; otherwise, you'll cause a lot of distortions in society," Museveni reportedly said.
Without being specific, Museveni accused some religious institutions of trying to impose their views on people with regard to how a marriage should be run. He said that some religious leaders were out of touch with reality in the sense that what they preach is not what they practise.
"There are religious people who consult witch-doctors. I know that for a fact," Museveni told the MPs. He added that as an individual, he holds certain views about clerics. He, for instance, does not believe that women should totally be submissive to their husbands as some religions teach. Neither does he believe in some of the practices of the "so-called elite women."
"I don't believe that African women should treat their hair to look like Indians'. That is why I encouraged Janet and my daughters to keep short hair. But if some people do it, it is okay," he said, causing laughter.
The church and other religious denominations have spoken out against certain provisions of the law, particularly the one related to legalising cohabitation. Museveni said women need to be counselled to go into marriage for love and not to accumulate property. He said the bill in its current shape encourages women to hop from one relationship to another, creating an unstable situation.
Museveni also told MPs that he did not agree with the usage of the term "bride price" because it presupposes that a woman has been bought.
"Women are not commodities," he said, suggesting that an appropriate word be used.
He also opposed the automatic refund of the bride price in the event of divorce, proposing that when a woman has been married for 10 years and has children, it [bride price] should not be refunded.
Raphael Magyezi (Igara West) told MPs that the clause on marital rape is redundant because our penal code already categorises rape as a criminal act, but Museveni disagreed with him. The president said that some men force women into sex after they have just given birth or recovered from a long illness. These, he said, needed to be disciplined.
Margaret Komuhangi (Nakasongola Woman) cited a case in her district where a man forced a woman who had just given birth into sex only for her uterus to rot thereafter.
Female MPs of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) recently pledged to support the controversial clause, which suggests a fine of Shs 240,000 ($91) or imprisonment of up to five years upon conviction.
Museveni said he would compile his suggestions on the bill into a paper which will be distributed to all NRM MPs. He also said he would talk to Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker, to persuade her to extend the period of consultation beyond the two weeks she announced.
Parliament went on recess last week and MPs are expected back on April 2.
The Vice Chairperson of the NRM caucus, David Bahati, said the caucus agrees with the Marriage bill principally to protect the institution of marriage.
In the caucus, Bahati said, members had agreed that further consultations should be done on all the clauses that were perceived to be controversial, including bride price, conjugal rights, property-sharing and pre-marriage agreements.