What Goans have to say about Goa's UCC

The UCC in Goa follows the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867

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Even as Uttarakhand is in the process of becoming the first state to enact the Uniform Civil Code, Goa remains the only state where a version of the UCC is in place. This means that people belonging to all religions in Goa are subject to the same laws on matters like marriage, divorce and succession. The UCC in Goa follows the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867. The Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act of 1962, which was passed after Goa became part of India as a Union Territory in 1961, gave it the permission to retain the Portuguese-era civil code. According to a large majority of Goans who have lived under the umbrella of the UCC for generations, it is "forward looking, non-discriminatory and promotes equality”. Carlos Alvares, former attorney general of India, said under the UCC, every child was considered to be equal before the law, irrespective of caste, creed, sex and religion. “Even a married girl who has taken dowry, is entitled to come back and take a share [of the property]. Only that the share will be reduced to the extent of the dowry taken.

The Goan code treats marriage as a civil contract between the spouses and not as an institution. “It is a communion of assets--a communion of two persons and their properties and assets. This means the moment a person marries, each spouse is a co-owner in the assets of the other. This is not so in other personal laws that are in effect across India at the moment,” said Alvares. “In case of divorce, too, separation of properties can take place only after the separation of persons. You cannot be living as a couple and still saying I want to separate my properties. You need to seek divorce.”

Alvares, however, said that many couples opted for a prenuptial contract agreeing that the marriage would be governed by an absolute separation of assets. It means that the husband keeps his property and the wife hers. And there are only certain specific grounds on which a person can take divorce. "It is not that I don't like you and, therefore, I want a divorce. And upon divorce there is a total separation of persons and properties.”

Astrid Fernandes (name changed), a Goan resident who works as a graphic designer, said the existing law had its own flaws as well as benefits. "We have seen so many fractured families and properties lying abandoned. In our family of five children, everyone has a share. But nobody wants to repair our house because everyone has a share in it. Only one among us lives in the house and that person needs to take permission from all others for any repairs. Our house is literally collapsing, but what to do," she said.

In terms of gender, the UCC does not discriminate. "It is empowering. You cannot just throw your spouse out. She is an equal partner with an equal say in everything. Women and girls are given rights and that also accords them respect. We have all accepted it and are comfortable with it here. Once a daughter gets married, she gets both the properties--parental and marital," said Astrid.