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Ugandan Couples Push to Get Married their Way

Humanist weddings — personalized ceremonies without religious connotations, tailor-made for couples who choose their own vows and the text that the celebrant reads aloud — are currently illegal across Africa except for South Africa. But if Uganda’s growing number of humanists have their way, these ceremonies could soon become routine in the East African nation, potentially leading the way for the rest of the continent. In a country where 86 percent of the population identifies as Christian and most of the rest as Muslims, according to a 2010 Pew survey, it’s a bold move. The African Humanist Celebrants Network (AHCN), a Ugandan non-profit formed in August 2019 to train celebrants and organize humanist weddings, wrote to Ugandan Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Kamuntu in July, requesting a clause in a proposed new marriage law to legally recognize such ceremonies. At the moment, these weddings aren’t officially recognized, so couples who exchange humanist vows need to have a civil marriage as well. In addition to Uganda, the Kampala-based Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability (HALEA) and its partners are training celebrants in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Sierra Leone.