Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Times: True purpose of cohabitation legislation

Friday, 11th June 2010 by Renée Laiviera, Naxxar

Straight from the horse's mouth, the cohabitation legislation being discussed by the Social Affairs Committee is aimed solely at regulating relationships between couples who can get married but choose not to. These should take responsibility for their actions, the Prime Minister declared on PBS on May 31. Through that clipped remark, he supposedly meant that such couples should shoulder their responsibilities towards each other and their offspring. Supposedly.

The initial lack of specific and clear terms of reference in this proposed legislation did not go unnoticed during recent weeks. Some said this proposal was meant only for couples living together but not in a sexual relationship. Others were expecting the legislation to regulate couples who are in a sexual relationship but who, in absence of divorce, cannot marry. Others assumed that this was meant for same sex couples who are demanding civil recognition of their union.

But no, all those couples cohabiting in a sexual relationship who cannot get married, the biggest group, will not be covered by this legislation. The vast majority of couples, who have the loudest voice and who have been lobbying for legal recognition for years, are being ignored. These couples are being left to cope in wholly unregulated relationships to suffer financial and emotional consequences as well as the condemnation heaped on them by the taboos of our supposedly charitable society. Our government is evidently not concerned about these couples and their offspring. They continue to bear no responsibilities towards each other or towards their offspring. The weaker parties, including children and the often financially dependent female partners, can fend for themselves as far as our government is concerned.

The government of Malta apparently feels no responsibility towards these citizens. It seems to think that its remit is solely to look after the interests of the 51 per cent of the Maltese population who attends Mass on Sunday, and this according to figures published last year. Mind you, this percentage includes cohabiting couples who are crying out for some sort of legislation to regulate their position.

The government is well aware that it cannot regulate these cohabiting couples without introducing divorce legislation and recognition of same sex relationships. This it seems unwilling to do for political, rather than social, or moral reasons. In the meantime, let's alienate one and all, and draw attention to couples who more often than not are cohabiting prior to marriage or who are financially independent and do not need or want to be regulated at all.

Who says we Maltese are not creative and innovative?

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

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