Legal reform

Goa's Civil Code has backing of BJP, but it's not truly Uniform

Marriage laws differ between communities. Crucially, Goa Family Law proves that the mere existence of a legal code does not guarantee equal social relations.

Goa's Portuguese-crafted Family Law has a strange set of backers. Five decades after the departure of the European colonists from the tiny coastal state, the law is being championed by Bharatiya Janata Party politicians who claim it is India's only uniform civil law, applicable to all citizens regardless of religious difference.

Under the current legal system, Indians of different religious groups are governed by so-called personal laws that regulate marriage, divorce, guardianship and succession.  But the BJP had in its election manifesto promised to implement a Uniform Civil Code, applicable to all citizens. Since 1997, the party has been holding up Goa’s Civil Code as a model to be implemented across the country.

“If we can have a Uniform Civil Code in Goa then what is the problem in introducing it countrywide?" BJP leader LK Advani said when he brought his Swarn Jayanthi Rath Yatra to the state that year. "The majority of the population in Goa is Christian and if there is no problem there, how can it create a problem elsewhere?”

The Goa Civil Code, or Family Law, is based on the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867. There have been subsequent amendments regarding the customs and "usages of Gentile Hindus" in 1880, marriage and divorce in 1910, and on Catholic marriages in 1946. All these periods, except 1910, reflect points in time when Portugal was deeply conservative.

It’s strange that these 19th-century colonial laws are consistently lauded, because they are far from equal, or even capable of coping with contemporary requirements.

To begin with, marriage laws differ for Catholics and people of other faiths, and this affects the laws governing Catholics after they marry. Divorce depends on what law people have been married under.  "There is no separation of the Church from the State yet," argued lawyer Albertina Almeida, a campaigner for women's rights. She points out that in the case of those who opt to solemnise their marriage in church, the Church can annul the marriage at the instance of one of the parties, as is laid down in church law.

In addition, the “customs and usages” of the Hindus of Goa are also recognised. “Limited” polygamy has been allowed to Hindus and bigamy has been recognised to have civil effects. Other inequalities – on issues of adoption and the rights of illegitimate children – are also allowed for in these laws. When it comes to taking an oath in court, differences on the basis of caste have been accepted.

To be sure, some provisions of the Goa Civil Code are revolutionary in the Indian context. Take, for instance, the Community Property Law, which guarantees – immediately upon betrothal – each spouse 50% of all assets owned and due to be inherited at the time of marriage. Not only does a woman own half the property of her husband, and vice versa, but each partner must take the spouse’s permission before disposing of any of those assets.

However, Shaila de Souza, who heads the Centre for Women's Studies at Goa University, said that these property rights often exist only on paper. "Very often, daughters get a certain amount of gold at the time of their marriage and are asked to sign off their rights to the family property," she said. "It is not common that daughters fight for their share of the parental property and if there are such cases invariably it will be because of an informed son-in-law who wishes to claim his share.”

Almedia also notes that the mere existence of a law does not bring about equality in social relations.

“We did a study to show that despite these seemingly equal laws, the issue of domestic violence is very prevalent," she said. "We had to demand and lobby to extend the Dowry Prohibition Act to Goa. Similarly there were murmurs that a domestic violence law is not required for Goa. But we kept emphasising that family laws, no matter how equitable, do not automatically translate into the absence of domestic violence."

So, how and why does the Goa Family Law continue to get such good press?

Crucially, there is also an influential section within Goa that sees a financial opportunity here. The supposed shared income between the spouses can result in lower taxes on their families, especially when one spouse is the major income earner. As the income in notionally divided between both spouses, tax incidence is reduced, sometime even halved. There's money to be made in presenting that the Goa civil code is uniform.

 
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

A special shade of blue inspired these musicians to create a musical piece

Thanks to an interesting neurological condition called synesthesia.

On certain forums on the Internet, heated discussions revolve around the colour of number 9 or the sound of strawberry cupcake. And most forum members mount a passionate defence of their points of view on these topics. These posts provide insight into a lesser known, but well-documented, sensory condition called synesthesia - simply described as the cross wiring of the senses.

Synesthetes can ‘see’ music, ‘taste’ paintings, ‘hear’ emotions...and experience other sensory combinations based on their type. If this seems confusing, just pay some attention to our everyday language. It’s riddled with synesthesia-like metaphors - ‘to go green with envy’, ‘to leave a bad taste in one’s mouth’, ‘loud colours’, ‘sweet smells’ and so on.

Synesthesia is a deeply individual experience for those who have it and differs from person to person. About 80 different types of synesthesia have been discovered so far. Some synesthetes even have multiple types, making their inner experience far richer than most can imagine.

Most synesthetes vehemently maintain that they don’t consider their synesthesia to be problem that needs to be fixed. Indeed, synesthesia isn’t classified as a disorder, but only a neurological condition - one that scientists say may even confer cognitive benefits, chief among them being a heightened sense of creativity.

Pop culture has celebrated synesthetic minds for centuries. Synesthetic musicians, writers, artists and even scientists have produced a body of work that still inspires. Indeed, synesthetes often gravitate towards the arts. Eduardo is a Canadian violinist who has synesthesia. He’s, in fact, so obsessed with it that he even went on to do a doctoral thesis on the subject. Eduardo has also authored a children’s book meant to encourage latent creativity, and synesthesia, in children.

Litsa, a British violinist, sees splashes of paint when she hears music. For her, the note G is green; she can’t separate the two. She considers synesthesia to be a fundamental part of her vocation. Samara echoes the sentiment. A talented cellist from London, Samara can’t quite quantify the effect of synesthesia on her music, for she has never known a life without it. Like most synesthetes, the discovery of synesthesia for Samara was really the realisation that other people didn’t experience the world the way she did.

Eduardo, Litsa and Samara got together to make music guided by their synesthesia. They were invited by Maruti NEXA to interpret their new automotive colour - NEXA Blue. The signature shade represents the brand’s spirit of innovation and draws on the legacy of blue as the colour that has inspired innovation and creativity in art, science and culture for centuries.

Each musician, like a true synesthete, came up with a different note to represent the colour. NEXA roped in Indraneel, a composer, to tie these notes together into a harmonious composition. The video below shows how Sound of NEXA Blue was conceived.

Play

You can watch Eduardo, Litsa and Samara play the entire Sound of NEXA Blue composition in the video below.

Play

To know more about NEXA Blue and how the brand constantly strives to bring something exclusive and innovative to its customers, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of NEXA and not by the Scroll editorial team.