Saturday, 23 January 2010

Times: Clear definition of what is meant by family and marriage needed - President

Saturday, 23rd January 2010 - 12:33CET
[Sunday 24th: Need for definition of Family]

Photo: Pierre Sammut, DOI

The Family Law should be updated and the national family policy published for there to be a clear definition of what is meant by family and marriage, President George Abela said this morning.

Speaking during the National Conference on the Family, organised by the Social Policy Ministry, President Abela said the concept of family was permanent and transcended the changes in society. Marriage was a commitment between a man and a woman which sometimes resulted in the procreation of new individuals.

Marriage, he said, needed to be supported to remain strong. Everyone had the right to a family life to develop their social emotional and cultural abilities to live in society.

Although one’s decision to get married was private one, its impact was on all society. A marriage was not a simple contract between two people but also included the concept of a family which was reflected in the law.

Times had changed and the authority within the family was no longer limited to the man but there was a greater reflection of equality, the President said.

The family existed before the state because it was something natural and the state could only regulate several aspects and offer protection. A family was independent from the state when it came to the transmissions of values and it was up to individual families to see which values were passed on to children. The state did not have a right to interfere in this, he said.

Although other countries allowed different types of unions between people of the same sex, could these unions be called a family, the President asked.

He added that this did not mean that the law could not provide for these people but could such a union be called of marriage?

On the adoption of children by gay couples, he asked if this would be a natural family model for the children.

He spoke about problems modern couples went through because of financial demands and women’s independence, including financial. Families postponed the decision to have children, the number of single parent households and couples cohabiting increased and the taboo against these no longer existed.

The President said that the concept of long term commitment towards the family was slowly being eroded and action had to be taken for this to be stopped.

Even though families were still strong and flexible because they managed to adapt to how times were changing, more support was needed because of the severe repercussions that were caused by each breakdown.

University lecturer Angela Abela said that times were changing fast and many concepts, such as divorce, abortion and cohabitation, that were not so accepted before were becoming more popular.

Because of this, there was a need to start working more on existing problems. Marriage, she said, was a very important institution but according to the 2005 census 5.65 per cent of people said they were separated.

However, the Maltese as a population still believed in long lasting relationships, a concept that was being lost in other countries.

In the census, she said, around 5,000 people said they were in a stable relationship but could not get married. Divorce would give these couples the chance to marry again. The subject, Dr Abela said, should not be discussed in a polarised way but as a way of giving these people the right to marry again.

Dr Abela said that it would be wrong to focus on divorce as a way out of marriage. But if separations continued to increase, one had to see what kind of commitment people in such a situation could be offered. The children of separated parents, for example would be able to have another parental figure in their life.

She said that it was no longer a taboo for women not to get married and become spinsters but 95 per cent of young women wanted to get married. 57 per cent were in favour of divorce and were afraid of marriage because they did not want to get caught in it.

Dr Abela said that in the past five years, one of every four babies was born outside marriage with 24 per cent of these babies born to teenage mothers. She asked whether action could have been taken to pre-empt this and said that certain action, such as the publication and implementation of the sexual health policy, could be taken right away.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website. See more comments here.]

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