Tuesday, March 27, 2012 by Amadeo Mifsud, Sannat
I was shocked to read in Martin Sciluna’s contribution (March 17) that the cohabitation law has been kept on the back burner for almost 14 years. Once a right has been identified, Parliament should be quick to etch it into the statute book.
Mr Sciluna’s list of “main features” was very clear and should not be too difficult for the legislator to address, although I cannot understand how “the rights of homosexual partnerships”, as he called them, would be safeguarded by requiring “the same-sex couple (to) go through a recognisable public ceremony”. Indeed, I cannot understand how anyone could claim a right to a “public ceremony” in the first place!
While this irrelevant ceremonial aspect made it into Mr Scicluna’s list, another much more important aspect – I dare say, a fundamental one – was omitted, as is so often the case when this issue is raised. I will illustrate it by an example from the history of rights for black people in the US.
In 1868 the US Congress had passed the 14th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Among other things it stated that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States (…) nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. This meant, or should have meant, that under federal law blacks would be treated like whites. Yet, almost a century later blacks were still treated as second class citizens in many states. In 1955 a young black woman going by the name of Rosa Parks boarded a bus for home in Montgomery, Alabama and as the bus became crowded she was ordered to give up her seat to a white passenger. Because she remained seated she was arrested.
This is how ineffective laws can be sometimes and I humbly suggest keeping this in mind when speaking about gay rights.
Enacting laws that permit gay people to conduct lives that do not make their sexual orientation seem like a burden is commendable indeed but perhaps we should not forget that neither laws nor public ceremonies will change attitudes. To do that takes a different kind of commitment. It takes education.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]
Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch justice minister, told MPs that he would investigate the involvement of the police or the health authorities in alleged cases.
"We will get to the bottom of it to the extent the government is concerned," he said.
The investigation follows reports that young men under the age of 21 were surgically castrated "to get rid of homosexuality" while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church.
According to Dutch social historians at least 400 men were castrated in the post-war period up until 1968, over 40 per cent were classed homosexuals.
One Dutch psychiatrist with close links to the Catholic Church was known as the "the castrator of the Netherlands".
"It was nothing unusual," Marnix Koolhaas, a Dutch historian, told the Volkskrant newspaper.
One man has been identified as Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.
He had accused Catholic priests of sexually abusing him in his Church run care home. Two clergymen were convicted of abuse but Mr Heithuis was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital were he was castrated.
Evidence of the castration policy has emerged amid controversy that it was not included in the findings of an official investigation into sexual abuse within the church last year.
Khadija Arib, a Dutch Labour MP, who called for the new investigation, said: "We must find out how many cases there were."