Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Times: AD insists Parliament should start debating divorce

Saturday, 12th June 2010 - 14:31CET

Parliamentarians should start debating divorce, especially since the social affairs committee is debating cohabitation, Alternattiva Demokratika said this morning.

Chairman Michael Briguglio told a news conference that the party wrote to the social affairs committee stating its position and submitted the legislation of Ireland and Italy, two countries with a Catholic heritage, which could be used as a starting point for the drafting of a law.

He said AD had always stressed upon the importance of legislation on registered partnerships and cohabitation.

“We are pleased that at last something is being done as regards to cohabitation.
“But such legislation will not compensate the lack of rights and legislation on other areas which concern basic rights of non-married couples - such as those concerning divorce, siblings living together and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights respectively.”

Mr Briguglio said it seemed that the government's proposals on cohabitation were more of a political strategy to keep postponing essential reforms on other areas regarding the rights of different types of families.

“It is very unfortunate that the Nationalist parliamentary group is refusing to read the signs of the times, and is therefore burying its head in the sand on such important issues as divorce.

“Labour on the other hand, is adopting a catch-all approach by trying to please everyone at the same time.

“It is more than evident that the Labourite proposal for a parliamentary free-vote on divorce will be defeated, due to the opposition of certain Labour MPs.”

He said that while the PN was shifting the goalposts by discussing cohabitation at the exclusion of other key issues, the PL was lacking leadership and vision by conveniently speaking about a free-vote on divorce, whilst not taking decisive action and presenting a draft law immediately.

Legalisation of divorce, similar to legislation on other family rights, required political courage. The plain truth was that some marriages failed.

“Should a state ignore this reality, thus excluding thousands of citizens from basic civil rights,” he asked.

He accused the government of abdicating from its responsibilities by giving the Catholic Church a monopoly on pre-marriage education, excluding those who did not wish to have a Catholic marriage from any form of education in this regard.

Civil rights spokesman Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer said that despite the absence of divorce, separation was on the rise in Malta for various reasons, including economic stress and other situational factors, but also due to the fact that people gave more value to being happy in their relationships.

“Divorce gives the possibility to those couples whose marriage has irremediably failed to start a new life, whatever it may be. Many separated persons would simply like to be given another chance to marry. From this perspective, divorce can be seen as being pro-family because it permits couples to regularise their relationships,” she said.

She said that together with the introduction of other measures to strengthen the family unit, divorce legislation would harmonise social and legal anomalies.

While AD appreciated the role of the Catholic Church as a legitimate and major voice in Malta's public sphere, one had to appreciate that in modern secular societies, where respect of civil rights took centre stage, being a Catholic was one identity among others.

“No one is obliged to divorce but the possibility of divorce should exist as a basic civil right,” she insisted.

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