One of the promises of the Nationalist Party before the 2008 election was to legislate in favour of cohabitation, including situations involving same-sex couples. Our vote in the Plenary session of the European Parliament last month reflected the line the PN is toeing and is a clear message that shows we truly believe in eliminating any kind of discrimination, be it sexual, religious or racial.
Needless to say, the stand the PN has taken on the subject is something that was long overdue and I feel we would be making a mistake if we brush aside these problems and act as if they don't exist.
I believe that a country should update its laws according to the needs of its citizens. Legislation should reflect the times we are living in and should be an aid not a burden to any citizen. In this sense we would be mistaken if we think that the cohabitation legislation applies only to same-sex couples. While these constitute a part, they are still a minority in this particular situation.
Over the last decade, separations have increased by the tenfold and, yes, I strongly believe that these people should be heard and helped as much as possible to make their lives easier instead of emarginating them. It has been proven that these relationships are more fragile and we are in duty bound to give such couples a second chance to live a better life.
We must also remember that legislating in favour of cohabitation does not only concern the couple involved but also any children born from the relationship. We are bound to safeguard their needs and interest and I think that this is the best way to do it.
This is not a question of a U turn. This is a question of keeping our word and this is the main reason why I don't believe what was written about Tonio Borg's speech in a political activity in Balzan. Dr Borg is the PN's deputy leader and I am sure he will also follow the party line in this matter, that is to introduce cohabitation legislation.
An important factor about this legislation is that it does not affect one particular strata of society. Cohabiting couples come from all strata of society and this further strengthens the argument that this is the reality we have in front of us, so we might as well address it because we know very well that, if anything, the number is bound to increase.
I think that, given the choice, many of these couples would get married but for reasons we all know we don't have that option in Malta, a fact that makes this legislation even more important. It seems there is political consensus on the subject even though the Labour MEPs' vote during the last Plenary (one in favour, one against and one abstention) does not make this clear. Apparently, being progressive in the new Labour Party (PL) dictionary means agreeing with everyone and no one. Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides. We have to move forward now if, like all developed and modern countries, we want to achieve not only economic sustainability but also social stability.
We constantly talk about the importance of embracing diversity; in a way, by legislating in favour of cohabitation we will be moving away from our traditional pattern and we may also be unpopular with some people but we would also be proving that we keep our promises and, as someone once told me, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time but achieve nothing.
Malta is a signatory of the charter on human rights and article 22 states: "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organisation and resources of each state, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality". By introducing this law we would be putting all these words into practice.
I would like to stress that those who are linking cohabitation law with same-sex marriages or divorce are misinforming the public. The issues are completely separate and should be treated as such. We should give the public the right information and then, with this knowledge in hand, they would be able to participate in a healthy discussion and form an opinion. I am still against the EU imposing these issues on our country, as we stated before the referendum in 2003, but I also believe that it is also high time we decide for ourselves.
Misinformation has blown this issue out of proportion. Luca Coscioni, an expert in environmental economics who died recently aged 38 of , once said "It is democracy itself to be at stake when the pursuit of knowledge is denied, that is a never ending resource for the survival of humanity, as a place of discussion and freedom on issues directly related to life, health and quality of life".
Malta please note!
Mr Casa is a Nationalist member of the European Parliament.
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