Civil code revisions being examined in new exercise to inform public ahead of debate on bill
The revision exercise began in 2013 and proceeded with a series of committee meetings. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles’ Parliament is carrying out a second preliminary exercise to review the country’s Civil Code ahead of a debate on the Bill, which is expected to take place before the end of this term’s sitting.
The second review is taking place from June 13 to 17 at the National Assembly’s chamber for the remaining articles of the Code. Members will be able to discuss and seek clarifications on the amendments being proposed.
Georges told SNA that this week’s hearing is a continuation of last year’s review ahead of the debate later in the term.
“Through this exercise, we want to inform the Parliament and the public of the content of the Civil Code Amendment Bill 2017. We want to have this exercise early in the second term so that we can have the debate during this term as well and vote on the Bill. We want to complete the exercise before 2020 which is an election year,” said Georges.
The revision began in 2013 and proceeded with a series of committee meetings which were open to the public. In July last year, the members of the National Assembly reviewed half of the 2,000 articles in the Civil Code.
The aim of the revision is to modernise the law to ensure that it reflects the current social circumstances of the island nation, and also the human rights provisions of the Constitution of the third republic adopted in 1993.
The proposals for the revised Civil Code are based on the report of a Civil Code revision committee, chaired by the Seychelles’ Chief Justice, Mathilda Twomey and the chairperson of the bill's committee of the National Assembly, Bernard Georges.
|Participants in the meeting of stakeholders in May, 2017. (State House) Photo license: CC-BY|
The Civil Code Amendment Bill 2017 which provides the basic rules of the law for the relationship between people will replace the previous one enacted in 1975.
The amendments are aimed at only 10 percent of the Civil Code only. The remaining 90 percent will not be touched. The Civil Code of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, has more than one thousand pages.
One pertinent issue under revision is equalising the rights of all children. The present Civil Code which reflects the 19th-century origins in the French Code still distinguishes illegitimate from legitimate children and restricts the rights of adulterine children.
The amendment is proposing to abolish the status of legitimacy and illegitimacy to comply with the equality of rights provisions in the Constitution.
Other amendments will include the rights of co-owners, the ability to dispose freely of property on death and land use matters and the sharing of property in out of wedlock relationships.
Rivalse Hoareau, 61, the father of two legitimate children and five adopted children, welcomed the amendments.
“A couple who is not married but who have lived together for many years and have children should have the same rights as a married couple. I don’t see why we should discriminate on the ground of them not being married,” said Hoareau.
He added that the same should apply to children and that “regardless if they are born out of wedlock or not, parents should be responsible towards their children and treat them as equals.”
His views were echoed by 30-year-old Travis Julienne, a married father of one.
“It is only right. All children should have equal claims to what the parents leave behind,” Julienne.
On the issue of sharing of property for out of wedlock relationships, Noella Baker, 36, mother of one living with her partner, said, “After a certain number of years it should automatically be shared.”
Winsel Pothin – a 41-year-old mother of two, had an opposing view and said that these amendments will bring confusion and complicate relationships.
“Where does one draw the line? How is it going to be confirmed if A is truly B's child as I know so well, in Seychelles, this test is not 100 percent accurate. And also why marry then if both are going to be treated equally?” she told SNA.
Georges said although the review committee has already consulted the public the committee is still open for suggestions and public views.
“We are broadcasting the sessions live so that those who still want to give their views and suggestions during the three-day exercise, can still do so. We want the public’s participation as we finalise the document. And of course they can also share their views with their representatives in the National Assembly and these will be taken up during our debates,” added Georges.
If approved the Civil Code will be consistent with the Supreme Laws of the Constitution.
The exercise is being done with the help of Jean Rosario Domingue, the chief executive of the Mauritius Law Reform Commission and Anthony Angelo, currently a professor of law at Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand.