Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Malta Star: Aditus: “co-habitation bill is zero-starting point”

Tuesday, 28 Aug 2012, 20:56

NGO on human rights aditus said on Tuesday that the co-habitation bill proposed by government “although being offered as a tool to recognise same-sex relationships, effectively does nothing to alter the present barren legal scenario.”

Aditus said it can only describe the bill as “a regrettable failure and a zero-starting point” for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

Aditus said that “most of the ‘rights’ created therein are already accessible today by any person. Anyone, including a homosexual couple, may approach any notary and regulate issues such as shared or common property and payments to any other person that could easily be termed ‘maintenance’.”

Aditus said that the Bill is over-burdened with references to financial elements, reducing same-sex relationships to quasi-commercial transactions between two persons, and several issues are either unclear or the result of unrefined legal drafting. “It is not clear whether eligibility for registration of a civil cohabitation partnership requires fulfilment of the ‘cohabitant’ criteria found in Article 3, namely the requirement of cohabitation of two years or more where children are involved or of five years in other cases. If this interpretation were correct, then same-sex couples would be required to firstly cohabit for the required number of years in order to be able to register their relationships. Marriage contains no such requirement.”

Aditus also said: “It is also unclear whether the criteria in Article 3(1)(a) or (b) – relating to the duration of the relationship – are sufficient for registration of civil cohabitation partnerships or whether the criteria in Article 3(2) – relating to other circumstances – will also be taken into account at the registration stage.”

Aditus said it cannot understand why same-sex couples are required to have received legal advice as a precondition to registration, when a far more serious contract as is marriage does not require any form or such advice, training or even basic information.

“We were also expecting the Bill to ensure that third-country nationals in same-sex relationships with Maltese nationals would be granted permission to enter, stay and work in Malta. The Bill makes no mention of this element, and neither of the need to guarantee the freedom of movement rights of EU nationals moving to Malta through recognition of marriages or partnerships validly contracted in other EU Member States.

These points seem to reflect the Bill’s overall policy assumptions, namely that same sex relationships are ‘special’ relationships, often riddled with abuse and exploitation and thereby requiring protection for weaker parties.”

Aditus foundation said the bill promotes the inherent unequal dignity of human beings.

Aditus reiterated the argumentation and recommendations made in MGRM’s

Position Paper on marriage Equality1, authored by aditus Director Dr. Neil Falzon as

MGRM’s Legal Advisor, essentially strongly advocating for the fullest legal recognition of same-sex relationships through marriage equality.

Dr Falzon said: “Regrettably, despite genuine efforts at constructive dialogue with the Minister, the Bill is largely a disappointing and failed attempt to engage with Malta’s gay community. This is absolutely not the result of dialogue, at least not as we understand the term.”

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