Justice Minister’s cohabitation bill described by human rights NGO aditus as ‘a regrettable failure’.
Tuesday 28 August 2012 - 19:14, Miriam Dalli
'The draft bill has reduced same-sex relationships to quasi-commercial transactions between two persons' - aditus foundation
Human rights NGO aditus has come out strong against the newly launched cohabitation draft bill, describing it as a "regrettable failure based on a zero-starting point".
"We are extremely disappointed at the bill's achievement in being an absolute zero-starting point that promotes the inherent unequal dignity of human beings," aditus said.
Launched today by Justice Minister Chris Said, the cohabitation bill is aimed at give straight and gay couples living together rights and duties, but fails to recognise them as families.
"Following months of meetings with the Maltese Government to discuss possible forms of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, aditus foundation can only describe the bill presented today as a regrettable failure," the NGO said in a statement.
"This is based on the zero-starting point presented through the bill which, although being offered as a tool to recognise same-sex relationships, effectively does nothing to alter the present barren legal scenario."
Aditus confirmed that mort of the rights mentioned in the bill are already accessed today by anyone.
"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'," it said.
In fact, when Minister Said was questioned over this point during the press conference earlier today, he reiterated that there were further rights provided by the bill and that the eventual law would also regulate the Law Courts on how to operate when faced by such cases.
Aditus criticised the fact that the Bill was over-burdened with references to financial elements.
"It has reduced same-sex relationships to quasi-commercial transactions between two persons, and several issues are either unclear or the result of unrefined legal drafting," it added.
Aditus explained that the bill was not clear whether eligibility for registration of a civil cohabitation partnership requires fulfilment of the 'cohabitant' criteria found in Article 3.
According to Article 3, a cohabitant would be recognised by either having cohabitated for 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 argued.
Aditus said it failed to understand why same-sex couples were required to have received legal advice as a precondition to registration.
"Marriage, a far more serious contract, does not require any form or such advice, training or even basic information."
Aditus foundation pointed out that the bill failed to address whether 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."
Aditus went on to say that the mentioned points seemed 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."