The Personal Status in French Law: With Special Focus on Overseas Territories

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
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France has reputation as a highly centralised unitary state. In the background there is, however, a long history of particularism: during the pre-Revolutionary ancien régime, the country had a large number of local coutumes. The colonies formed another question: even after the Revolution of 1789 they were considered as an exception to the major rule. From the 18th century France has used the notion spécialité legislative, which recognises the legal difference in overseas areas. This policy continues in modern France as a different legal treatment of more integrated overseas regions (former territories) belonging to the European Union, and the other overseas collectivities, more loosely connected to Metropolitan France. Signs of legal pluralism can be found from both Metropolitan France and overseas collectivities, but three of the last-mentioned are of special interest to this article: New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and Mayotte. In all of them the French Constitution recognises the existence of separate personal status. In New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna this status is closely related to indigenous custom, dominating the daily life in family relations and land owning. In Mayotte, the personal status is a mixture of Islamic law and African customary law. In other overseas collectivities there are also remnants, or pockets, of personal status visible, but they have no constitutional or official legal recognition. The article shows that although the official French policy has considered the personal status a transitory measure, it is not completely vanishing. In the Pacific region it is even strengthening, as the example of New Caledonia well indicates.

The Personal Status in French Law: With Special Focus on Overseas Territories

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

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References

3

Constitution (1946) Préambule; Constitution (1958) Articles 1 3; Conseil constitutionnel Décision no. 76–71 DC du 30 décembre 1976.

4

Rouland et al.supra note 1 pp. 320–326.

5

Constitution (1791); ibid.

7

Constitution (1946) Article 72.

8

Constitution (1958) Article 73.

9

Constitution (1958) Article 72 (repealed) 74.

11

Constitution (1958) Article 75. Cf. Cour d’appel de Besançon Mlles Narnada et Radjaswari c. M.P. 13 juin 1995.

16

Accord de Nouméa (1998) Article 1.1.

18

Accord de Nouméa (1998) préambule; Loi no. 85–872 du 23 août 1985.

22

Ntumysupra note 13 p. 619; G. Agniel ‘Statut coutumier Kanaque et jurisdiction du droit commun en Nouvelle-Calédonie’ 3 Revue aspects (2008) p. 90.

23

Ntumyibid. pp. 615–617.

25

Accord de Nouméa (1998) Article 1.2.1–1.2.2. 1.2.4.; Loi du Pays du 15 janvier 2007 (Nouvelle-Calédonie) pp. 3–5 8 19 28.

26

Accord de Nouméa (1998) Article 1.4.

31

Décret du 8 août 1933Article 4–5 7–8; Ntumy supra note 13 p. 624.

35

Aimot and Tamoleibid. pp. 50–57.

36

Aubysupra note 6 p. 187.

37

Constitution (1958) Article 73; T. Michalon ‘La République française une fédération qui s’ignore ?’ 5–6 Revue du droit public et de la science politique en France et à l’étranger (1982) pp. 638–639; Départementalisation de Mayotte: sortir de l’ambiguité faire face aux responsabilités <www.senat.fr> visited on 20 April 2014.

38

Décret du 1 juin 1939Article 6; Déliberation du Chambre des députés de Comores no. 64–12bis du 3 juin 1964 Article 9. The decree of 1 June 1939 for instance ended stoning as a punishment in religious law; Départementalisation de Mayotte: sortir de l’ambiguité faire face aux responsabilités ibid.

39

Lafarguesupra note 15 p. 106; Départementalisation de Mayotte: sortir de l’ambiguité faire face aux responsabilitésibid.

41

Loi no. 616 du 11 juillet 2001Article 61 al. 2.

47

Newburyibid. pp. 91 184 192.

49

C. Vannier‘Les litiges fonciers en Tahiti: examens critiques des problems’Comparative Law Journal of the Pacific (2007) pp. 84–86. The Torrens system used in common law countries was created by Sir Robert Torrens in South Australia during the early 19th century.

51

UNHCRFrancis Hopu & Tepoaitu Bessert v. France (1993).

52

Code du domaine de l’Etat (1990) Article R 170–56; I. Arnoux ‘Les Amérindiens dans le département de la Guyane : problèmes juridiques et politiques’ Revue du droit public et de la science politique and France et à l’étranger (1989) pp. 1624–1629; D. Peyrat and M.-A. Gougis and C. Chine L’accès au droit en Guyane (Ibis Rouge Éditions. Cayenne 1998) p. 79; M.-F. Bechtel (ed.) ‘Les outre-mers entre décentralisation integration européenne et mondialisation’ 101 Revue française d’administration publique (2002) p. 31.

53

Arnouxibid. pp. 1625–1628.

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