What good is Goa’s “Uniform Civil Code” if…?
Goa certainly has many provisions in the family laws which are uniform. And some who are not. But a law is only as good as its operationality as seen in lived experience, especially for the marginalized among those to whom it is meant to apply.
Therefore, what use are these uniform or non-uniform provisions, if:
* If the daughter has no idea of the properties of her parents, simply because the parents were prejudiced enough to believe that their daughter does not need to know the properties?
* If the court cannot subpoena sons who might have knowledge of their parents’ assets, to disclose the assets under penalty of perjury as part of the case itself?
* If they do not specifically allow a daughter to assert parental property rights and property interests, such as mundkarial rights, on the same basis as a son?
* If the wife is not informed of the details of the property, or the technical details of the sources of income, of her husband, to ask for his rights to the marital property during the divorce?
* If the concept of matrimonial property rights does not translate into a mutation of the acts of investigation at the time of marriage, considering that in the absence of maintenance of the Portuguese system of description and registration of property, the acts of investigation, i.e. Form I and XIV, functions almost as the ultimate document?
* If the management of matrimonial assets is the prerogative of the male spouse, and that he can thus squander the assets? Or simply that the woman does not have the right as such to manage it, because of this provision, and her rights only arise when she is the sole owner during a divorce, separation or widowhood?
* If, due to or despite these unequal uniform provisions, the husband enters into a leave and license or lease agreement with a prospective tenant, and the tenant cannot be held liable, simply because the husband had the right to enter into a matrimonial property authorization and license agreement?
* If wills can be made in favor of the son who does not have a strained relationship with his wife, to circumvent the assertion of matrimonial property rights by the spouse of the other son with whom there is a strained relationship, and the property can then be transferred to the name of the other son in the registers, without an inventory being carried out?
* If there is no mandatory legal advice, such as in the legal awareness of a couple on their options at the time of marriage, on reading the contents of the marriage registration application, especially for a woman who is conditioned not to read the form because it would mean a lack of trust which is supposed to be the basic foundation of a marriage?
* If the Panchayat, in a successful divorce initiated by the wife, transfers the property tax records of the matrimonial home, to the name of the husband from his name or from the name of his ancestors?
* If a woman’s name on the voters list can be canceled because she is temporarily staying elsewhere due to imminent danger to remain in her marital home, even if only until protection orders, and the husband, or other family member, in the meantime, tells the Booth level officer that she is not staying there, and the voter registration officer can do remove his name from the electoral list of the area in which his marital home is located?
* If his name cannot be registered as a shareholder, on the death of his parents who held these shares, simply because his brother’s name is registered as a nominee and his parents’ shares have just been transferred to his name under the Companies Act?
* If a husband can withdraw from a partnership in collusion with his parents, siblings, others, only so that she cannot claim the tangible benefits of this partnership?
* If markers of modern evolving society like adoption, have no place in Goan family laws, except in sexist conditions, for non-Catholics?
* Are markers of evolving modern society such as the recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people and their intersex relationships missing?
* If the family laws of Goa are used as a sign of superiority, and will be used, like the slogan of the Uniform Civil Code, to conceal the non-existence of a social security system for those who will have shares equal to their parental property, which is nothing, or half (half) part of marital property, where the couple is theoretically entitled to half of nothing?
* If a law, though partially unused, called the Usages and Customs of the Gentile Hindus of Goa, and enacted by the Portuguese, and retained by the Indian Parliament, by default, which provides for a Brahmin to swear on Shree Bhagwad Gita and the other castes on coconut, betel, areca and rice, is it allowed to remain in the law book as a shining example of sexism and casteism?
Whether or not the Goa government is ready and willing to look into and correct all the issues raised above, which make the law unbalanced, and will state so in explicit terms, might indicate something about its true intent. Firstly, if it is argued that the Portuguese decree was issued on the condition that any provision of the law incompatible with morality or public order cannot survive, is the government prepared to declare that the varna system is contrary to public order, and the same applies to sexist provisions for adoption if there are no male children, and explicitly repeal such law or provisions of the law that reaffirms such a system.
(Albertina Almeida is a lawyer and human rights activist).