Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Andrew Azzopardi: “…it has been presented as a [cohabitation] bill that tries to shove other ‘realities’ beneath the carpet” – Cyrus Engerer

Cyrus Engerer gives his comments on the proposed Cohabitation Bill;

“The proposed cohabitation bill is a disgraceful one and falls short of all the promises made by GonziPN during the past year, especially through ‘star’ Minister Said. It also shows that no matter what consultation sessions were held with relevant stakeholders, everything fell on Dr. Gonzi’s deaf ears, who remains leading this ultra-conservative government.

Firstly, I believe that a bill regulating cohabitation, should do just that. It should be open to all those who cohabit, especially those who are not in an intimate relationship with each other. It should lay out their rights and obligations towards each other. Therefore, it should address family members who live together (for instance an uncle and a nephew, two siblings etc.) and friends/individuals who share the same dwelling. Against all odds, it is these that the bill omits.

Instead, it has been presented as a bill that tries to shove other ‘realities’ (as Minister Said called them) beneath the carpet. It is a law that is basically aimed at same-sex couples as well as those who need more time before they can attain a divorce decree following their previous marriage.

Same-sex couples do not deserve a second-class cohabitation bill for them to be recognised. Same-sex couples deserve and should be given equal opportunities. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. All couples should be given the same tools of recognition, resulting in equal rights and equal obligations. Treating same-sex couples differently to other couples will continue to stigmatise these couples, portray them as different and of less importance when compared to other couples, and promote discrimination which continues to emanate also from public institutions.

To make matters worse, Minister Said also put the cherry on the cake. He stated that this bill does ‘not mean recognition of a gay relationship on the same level of a family’. GonziPN does not believe that same-sex couples and their children constitute a family. This is not the first time we heard this from the GonziPN Government. Former Justice and Home Affairs Minister, Dr. Carm Mifsud Bonnici had stated that same-sex families ‘go against Malta’s public policy’.

This GonziPN government is simply detached from all that’s going on around it. It fails to even consider judgements by the European Court of Human Rights. For instance, in Shalk & Kopf v Austria, an obiter dictum on homosexual relations stated that these ‘fall within the notion of family life’.

The only solace this week is Dr. Joseph Muscat’s statement on Monday, where he stated that ‘we have to look at the future, because the road to progress is long and the work is ample. Fortunately, those who believe in progressive and liberal ideals are continuously increasing’.

It is this hope for a better future that gives us the needed strength to continue working for equality. Partit Laburista has made it clear. Equal rights must be given to all couples and families, irrespective of the family’s constitution. It has taken a rights-based approach and has proposed Civil Union legislation with equal rights. Because irrespective of who the person is, what the person’s beliefs are or who the person is related to, everyone must be treated in the same manner and be given the same opportunities. We can’t keep having a situation in which government rewards one section of society with more rights than others. We all belong to the same Malta!”

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