28 May 2012
by Keith Micallef
247 couples have been granted divorce so far since the introduction of this civil right from 1 October last year, following the divorce referendum held exactly a year ago today.
In total there were 512 applications for divorce of which only 14 were from Gozo.
According to the statistics provided by the Justice Ministry, there were 94 requests from couples who made a joint bid after being granted legal separation. Another 350 requests were made from either the husband or wife making up couples who were already legally separated, while a further 38 requests were made from couples who are still in the process of separating.
The remaining 16 requests were made by couples who had no intention of separating and decided to opt for divorce straight away. With regard to Gozo, the only statistic available is that out of 14 requests, 12 were granted.
The Malta Independent spoke to Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando who in July 2010 defied his own party and presented the historic private member’s bill for the introduction of this right. His own party later adopted a stand against the introduction of divorce.
In his comments, Dr Pullicino Orlando remarked that the campaign for the introduction of divorce preceding the referendum ranks as one of the high-points in his political career. “Being part of a dedicated team composed of individuals coming from all parts of the political spectrum working for a common aim was a very positive experience.” He added that he would welcome such initiatives in future which in the long-run also serve to overcome what he termed as “the suffocating partisan local political scene”.
Regarding the experience of divorce in Malta so far, the PN backbencher who is no stranger to controversy remarked that “the doom and gloom brigade who were forecasting anything from earthquakes to the breakdown of society as we know it have, predictably, been proven dramatically wrong.” He added that “most of the divorce applications which have been processed were related to couples who have been separated for a number of years. Divorce has given them a new lease of life in the new relationships they have built, allowing them to take the responsible way forward to regularise their position if they wish to do so.”
Dr Pullicino Orlando then moved on to other contemporary issues which may be the source national controversy in the coming months or years, referring to gay unions and IVF, pointing his finger at the Church authorities and at some politicians.
“It is a shame that there are other issues, such as gay unions and IVF, which are not being tackled for precisely the same reason that divorce wasn’t for so many years - an inordinate fear of provoking the ire of the local Catholic Curia which still seems intent on interfering in purely civil matters. This, to me and many others, is an unacceptable failing on the part of the political class” stated Dr Pullicino Orlando.
This newspaper tried to get some feedback from the other side of the coin. However, Andre Camilleri, who served as president of the Żwieġ Bla Divorzju movement which was later dissolved, told us he had nothing to say once the decision had been taken and the country had moved on.