Goa awaits proposed law for making HIV test compulsory before marriage

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Panjim (Goa): Exactly a week since the Monsoon Session of Goa State Assembly got underway; all eyes are still set upon State Government’s plan to make HIV tests compulsory for couples before the registration of marriage in Goa. An idea if implemented, could lead to improvement into the awareness on sexual health among couples. Recently, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane had expressed government’s desire to make HIV test compulsory for couples before registration of marriage, which is not mandatory as of now. He had also stated that the Law Department was working upon the modalities to come out with a law with regard to making HIV test compulsory.

But in a recent Cabinet reshuffle, Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant, the portfolios of Law and Judiciary, which were also with Rane, were allotted to Nilesh Cabral, while the Health Minister was given the charge of skill development. Now, with Law and Judiciary out of his hands it would be interesting to see how Rane manages to bring in this much desired and widely appreciated health related move in the ongoing Monsoon Session.

Former Health Minister, Dayanand Narvekar too had mooted a similar proposal way back in 2006, with the Goa Cabinet approving the legislation. However, it was never put in force with a proper law on it.

Many of those who have upheld Rane’s decision to make HIV test mandatory before marriage registration, have also expressed fear of it meeting the same fate like 2006. “It’s a much needed initiative with regard to protecting not just the newly married couples from this dreaded ailment, but also the future generation,” says Natasha Dias, who hopes that the new law with regard to this shall be made at the earliest. Tejas Patel, who is born in Mumbai but brought up in Goa plans to get married in December. He too upholds the move planned by the Health Minister with regard to compulsory HIV tests. “If implemented, it could serve as an example for the neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Karnataka,” says Tejas, who also feels that with law and judiciary no more into Rane’s hand, it could be a newfound hurdle in this direction.

Interestingly, Goa happens to be the only State in India that has Uniform Civil Code regardless of religion, gender or caste. The Goa Family Law, is the set of Civil Law, originally the Portuguese Civil Code, continued to be implemented after its annexation in 1961, bringing everyone under one law with regard to marriage, divorce and succession.

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) while replying to an RTI had stated that 1,342 people across India had contracted HIV infection due to blood transfusion in 2018-19, giving rise to serious safety concerns. Across country, over 7,218 have contracted through blood and its products since 2014-15. In 2018-19, Uttar Pradesh topped the chart with 241 cases, followed by West Bengal with 176 cases and Delhi with 172 cases.

(Edited by Prashant Hamine and written by Sumeet Naik)

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