Monday, 1 February 2010

Independent: Adulterium, stone the women
31.1.10? by Pamela Hansen

The heading is taken from an online comment, which I think is appropriate as a title to what you are about to read because it demonstrates the level of illiteracy and Neanderthal thinking of some men in this country.

A man broke his wife’s nose, and ended up in court last week, because he “allegedly” caught her with another man. He pleaded guilty to seriously injuring and threatening her.

He received a two-year jail term, suspended for four years, and she was put under a protection order by the court. He would not be living in the matrimonial home and was ordered to sign a guarantee of e1,000.

The reactions to the story online included:

“She deserves it – and I hope the guy (she was in bed with) got much more!”

“Whilst the action the husband made is condemnable, I can fully sympathise with him.”

“It’s a shame that in this case the man had to be justiced, along in some other countires if a woman was caught in adulterium it will be stoned by her own husbund and he is free to to that and here the woman is free of charge.”

Please note that I am reproducing the last comment verbatim, spelling mistakes and all. The “it” after ‘adulterium’ says it all, and according to the story the comments were based on, the infidelity was alleged.

I suppose these are some of the kind of social changes and ‘new’ challenges families are facing and what has prompted the need for a national family policy.

For those who do not recognise a tongue-in-cheek comment, let me make it clear that I am taking the mickey about the changes and challenges.

Adultery, committed by both husband and wife, was around yesterday, is here today and will no doubt be with us tomorrow.

Is it up to society to censor infidelity in marriage or is it a personal matter to be dealt with by the couple?

It is definitely a personal matter if no violence is involved and if the children are not being damaged in any way. And it is up to the couple whether to be reconciled or go their separate ways.

If husbands and wives had to decide to separate because of infidelity, there would be more men kicked out (not literally, OK) of the matrimonial home.

I nearly used “bury the hatchet” instead of “be reconciled” earlier, until I realised someone might take it literally. Can you blame me, considering the level of the use of language that appears daily?

Is a man or a woman entitled to take violent revenge?

In the past, people (usually men) got away with beating their partners (usually women), precisely because the police used to believe that they should not interfere in a “domestic”. Thankfully, things have changed and the police now quite rightly take action.

However, I am not sure whether priests are still interfering and telling women that they should put up with it “For better, for worse”.

Violence should always be condemned by society and it is worrying to see comments saying that a victim deserved a beating and implications that men have the right to subjugate their wives.

A recent conference about ‘the family’ caused a bit of commotion, mainly by the gay community, because it seemed that the only family unit recognised as such by the President and others is the nuclear family.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement issued a release complaining that President George Abela “excluded all those married couples who could not have children, including childless couples, adoptive parents and foster parents; single parents; cohabiting couples and any children they might have and, of course, gay and lesbian parents.”

Searching online for coverage of the event, “The Family... Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”, organised by the Ministry of Social Policy and held last weekend, proved fruitless. I only found the announcement for the event and the press release issued by MGRM.

The announcement for the conference said it was being held to discuss new challenges and opportunities in society in view of social changes, which are creating a clear need for a national family policy.

“It will touch on the effect of family break ups, the challenge of an upbringing outside the home, the balance between home and work, and the equal responsibility of parents,” said the blurb.

What about the reasons for family break ups? One cannot “touch” on the effect of break ups while ignoring the cause. I would have thought the latter comes first.

And, surely, the diverse facets of today’s families are important items to be included in the new challenges and social changes. Were they discussed?

Attendance was free but “No one will be allowed in without an invitation”, it said. I suppose one had to register for the invitation by phoning the ministry.

But this note was hardly welcoming the general public to attend. You either have an open public consultation or you don’t. If the organisers were just worried about space, they should have put it better.

Anyway, to get back to the nitty-gritty, what does constitute a family?

A family is a group of people living together and functioning as a single household. Nowadays, the more specific term for a mother, father and children is “nuclear family”.

A couple who live together, function as a single unit and have no children, are a family. Married couples with no children are a family. One-parent families, as the name implies, are families.

What is seen by conservative thinkers as ‘normal’ is the nuclear family – mummy, daddy (who are married to each other) and their offspring. But society is not just made up of nuclear families, and I hope the Ministry of Social Policy is not contemplating ignoring the rest in the proposed National Family Policy.

Now while there are nuclear families that are exemplary to the society in which they live, one must concede that not all such families are shining examples of accepted principles and standards.

Just promoting the nuclear family, without addressing the chaos and violence that often causes the break up within that unit, is totally dishonest.

And I am hoping that maybe that was what the conference was all about.

Another case of ‘matrimonial bliss’ covered by the papers brought up another aspect pertaining to family disruption and how gender battles are very much alive.

A woman who filed a false police report claiming that her husband was harbouring a fugitive on his yacht was last week conditionally discharged for a year.

In September 2008, 12 officers, including soldiers armed with submachine guns, raided a yacht while it was anchored in Mellieha Bay after a woman filed a report with the police claiming her husband was harbouring a fugitive on his yacht.

She had told the police that Joseph Cini, alias Il-Pele, a fugitive, was on her husband’s yacht. How dangerous is Il-Pele? He must be very dangerous, if it warranted 12 officers from both the Police and the Armed Forces, armed with submachine guns, to raid the boat. And is he still at large nearly one-and-a-half years later?

I am assuming that the police must have had some other information on the boat owner’s background, apart from his wife’s allegations, to carry out such a heavy-handed operation.

The husband filed a judicial protest, claiming that his rights had been violated when his yacht was raided without a warrant, causing him “undue shock and humiliation”.

None of the people commenting on this item seemed at all concerned about the heavily armed raid without a warrant, or whether the fugitive was still at large.

Their concerns were the gender battles. It was reported that the couple are going through contentious separation proceedings.

Some quoted the old chestnut “a woman scorned” and others commented on how many poor men suffer at the hands of their ogre wives, while others argued that it is more often the men who bully.

The latter is substantiated by reports, but if even one man is bullied and beaten, that is also condemnable.

What is needed to keep all families living harmonious lives is respect for each individual within that unit.

Men and women must realise that they do not own each other.

Both, particularly women, must understand that their children are not possessions to be manipulated and used as weapons.

And men in particular must understand that “For better, for worse” does not mean that they have carte blanche to do their worst.

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