Goa Law Minister Nilesh Cabral Monday announced that the state will start premarital counselling sessions for couples registering for marriage, saying there was a rise in the number of divorces and annulments of marriage.
The Department of Registration will carry out the programme in the 15 days between registration and solemnisation of marriages.
“Annulment of marriage is a concern. A lot of marriages are getting annulled in a matter of two to four months, a year or three years. Within our department, we were worried,” Cabral told The Indian Express.
The minister said while official data on the number of divorces or annulments of marriage was compiled by the department, it was not immediately available.
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“The annulment of a marriage has to be notified. If you go to the Gazetteer of Goa, you will see that there are at least 10-15 marriages annulled every 15 days,” said Cabral. He said that as a “social responsibility” of the Department of Registration, they then decided to come up with a premarital counselling programme.
“We should also take responsibility to sit with the couples after the first signature and tell them what their duty towards each other is, what their duties and responsibilities towards their children are, what their duties towards their in-laws are. We have made a small programme,” Cabral said.
He said that it will be a half-day classroom programme and couples will be issued their marriage certificate immediately after attending it.
Cabral said the Catholic community in Goa already has premarital counselling for couples held by the Church. However, the government will now be holding counselling sessions for couples across religions and this will be a first in Goa.
“Ours is a Uniform Civil Code in Goa. We were worried about divorces. We have not considered what other states are doing. We are a unique state,” said Cabral.
To introduce the programme, however, an amendment will have to be brought about in the existing laws for which the government may bring about an ordinance in the next session of the Goa Legislative Assembly slated to be held in July.
“We are getting in touch with counselors who may have studied this. What we want to do is to help couples in understanding each other and tell them what the value of family in Indian circumstances is,” said Ashutosh Apte, Registrar-cum-Head of Notary Services.
The Goa government will rope in the Goa Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (GIPARD) for designing the programme which, officials said, the government had been thinking about for about a year.
“We have asked GIPARD if they can arrange for counselors. We don’t want everyone to come to Panaji or Margao. We want to do it at the taluka-level so that it becomes easy for people to attend. Or there may be hesitation or resistance from the public to go all the way just for attending this (counselling session),” said Apte.
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