It lays down that a man’s second marriage is legal if the first wife doesn’t bear a child till the age of 25 or does not deliver a male child till the age of 30
NEW DELHI : Goa’s family laws hailed for its common civil code inherited from erstwhile Portuguese rulers have come under dispute with a study sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) claiming that it promotes bigamy.
Though the jurists often recommend adoption of the Goan law by India as a uniform civil code for absolute equality irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity or gender, the UNPF study undertaken by former Law Commission member Kirti Singh, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, says the law reads differently in case of the Hindus.
He has cited that the Family Law of Usage and Customs of Gentile Hindus of Goa allows bigamy under certain conditions.
It lays down that a man’s second marriage is legal if the first wife doesn’t bear a child till the age of 25 or does not deliver a male child till the age of 30.
Singh refers to Article 3 and 4 of the section concerning the Hindus in the Portuguese Civil Code as made effective under the Family Laws of Goa, Daman and Diu.
The study, titled Law and Son Preference in India, A Reality Check, recommends that the provisions on the recognition of “simultaneous polygamy” as well as the legal endorsement of the need for sons should be deleted with immediate effect.
Fredrika Meijer, UNFPA Representative for India and Bhutan, said: “The study finds some legal provisions are not just inadequate in checking son preference, but also promote the practice and end up being discriminatory for women. While a law that is not implemented is damaging, one that inadvertently propagates son preference goes against the Indian state’s commitment to gender equality.”
The Goan family laws as they are called apply to marriage, divorce, inheritance, succession, children and adoption and division of properties which is the unique feature unlike other prevalent laws in India concerning these aspects. Personnel laws of Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, etc. do not apply in Goa.
These consist of provisions from the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, Law of Marriage of 1910, and Laws of Divorce of 1910, Decree of 1945 applied to Colonies based on the Concordat and some other provisions as amended up to 1961 that were adopted on Goa’s liberation and continue to remain in force till todate.
The UNPF study raises an accusing finger not only at the Goan laws but says other laws may not be as blunt but many inadvertently promote sex selection and cites in this regard the Dowry Prohibition Act, Prevention of Child Marriage Act as well as succession and land reform laws.
It points out that the anti-dowry law describes dowry as any “property or valuable security given or agreed to be given… by one party to the marriage to the other party to the marriage… at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage.”
Singh, author of the study, finds “in connection with the marriage” problematic citing several acquittals as it is difficult to show that the given items have some connection with the marriage.
He also points out that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is discriminatory against the girl child since despite the provision for strict punishment to those who “promote” or “permit” it, the marriage is not automatically void, but only voidable.
“Since the girl is culturally and socially more vulnerable, it is doubtful whether she will be able to exercise her option of getting out of even a violent marriage,” says the study.
Some other findings of the study say:
Different personal laws discriminate against women in varying degrees. Under the Hindu Succession Act, the property of a Hindu woman dying intestate devolves first upon her children and husband. Then, it devolves not on her own family, but upon the heirs of her husband:
Some states have laws that overtly exclude daughters and widows from inheriting land; and
Female foeticide is pushed up by state laws that restrict to two the number of children that an elected panchayat/ municipal council representative can have.