Maltese, you can now get divorced
Saturday’s pro divorce referendum in Malta had the effect of making me go over the reasons why its important to have the ability to divorce your spouse should you want to. Malta, as a predominantly Catholic country was naturally anti divorce. When the volk voted to pass an act that would allow dissolution of marriages of couples who have already been separated for at least 5 years there was a good deal of controversy.
The anti divorce laws of Malta ensure that people who don’t get on with each other can only be legally separated, not divorced which means that they can’t actually remarry. Saturday’s referendum is the first step to changing that.
I find it disturbing that the Catholic Church insists that people stay married to each other come what may. It does seem rather intrusive and a very outdated way of thinking that makes the assumption that couples divorce easily and thoughtlessly. While this may be true in some of the cases, by and large people try very hard to make their marriages work and if two adults come to the conclusion that they cannot live together any longer and want to opt out of the marriage, they should be allowed to do so without large organisations poking their noses into people’s private lives. As things used to stand, people who were looking at a second chance at happiness had to live together as partners or get an annulment of the first marriage from the Catholic Church. One couple simply introduces themselves as married. They wear wedding rings and have an 8-year-old son, and say that they are as committed to each other as if they are married. Opposition leader Joseph Muscat has said he is strongly in favour of divorce, even if he is “the last man standing”. “The divorce referendum is a vote for modernity and an opportunity for those whose marriage has broken down to be able to start afresh,” Muscat said on Thursday.
The Catholic Church of Malta runs marriage preparation classes for couples who wish to marry and it is compulsory for them to attend. Pro family life organisations insist that you cannot be pro marriage if you are pro divorce, implying that the commitment to marriage is lacking in people who seek a divorce. Another argument they use is that statistics prove that the second relationship is unlikely to work if the first one did not. Another anti divorce argument is the trauma the children go through during and after a divorce. In case one of the parties does not want the divorce the unwilling partner suffers immensely. For Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta, divorce offers “no solutions” for society.” We have to help people whose marriage has broken down, but we also have to help couples prepare better for marriage so that marriages do not break down and the value of an indissoluble marriage is bequeathed to the young,” Gonzi said.
There are arguments both for and against providing the Maltese people with the possibility of divorce. The most overriding argument is that freedom is of the utmost importance. The power to make one’s own choices in life, ensuring that those are informed choices, choices that have been made after a lot of thought is what sets us apart from barbaric cultures where the state, or the church decides what we may or may not do. In a truly humanistic society, the choices for one’s own life must remain within one’s own hands.