While Tunisia and Egypt, our not so far away Mediterranean neighbours, are in turmoil over issues of civil liberties, democracy and corruption, Malta turns inwards to its own hot issues of the day; and on top of the list is divorce. We’ve seen gaffs from politicians (divorce is inevitably a political issue in Malta); and we’ve seen the increasingly fervent ‘Yes to Divorce‘ and No to Divorce movements snipe at each other.
That it should be a topic of discussion at all, let alone one to divide a nation, create buzz on the airwaves and online, seems bizarre when the rest of the world has divorce laws, bar one country – the Philippines.
It’s not our purpose here to debate the pro and anti movements’ arguments. There are plenty of places to read those online. But, we do have an opinion on the introduction of a divorce law; it would be disingenuous of us not to, although one mainstream media outlet is ensuring its editorial remains bland on the issue.
Divorce is not most people’s desired state of affairs and certainly not on wedding day wish lists unless the couple is getting a marriage of convenience. While few of us can say we’re pro divorce, we should be saying we’re pro having a divorce law. After all, what matter is it to us that a couple down the street needs a divorce? States generally promote the concept of marriage and the family unit as desirable, but do not prevent divorce. The two can sit side by side.
With divorce on the statute books, we rid ourselves of one of the last vestiges of the nanny state, grow up and let those who desire a divorce get closure and move on. The messy issues that lead to divorce exist in Malta, but it is as if without having divorce in name, we can pretend they don’t.
The worry in Malta is that if and when divorce is put to a popular referendum people will vote from personal conviction that they don’t want it in their lives. Great if they don’t. But why should they stop those who need a divorce – the neighbour, the 20 people in the next town – and prevent the country coming of age, and its citizens taking responsibility for their lives once and for all, free from the hegemonic power of church and state intertwined?
Divorce should be on Malta’s statute books whatever our personal opinion, beliefs, wishes, hopes. Here’s some food for thought on why:
1. Malta, a modern European state without divorce – surely an oxymoron?
Take this scenario: a young Maltese man who is anti divorce and not married is offered a superb job overseas, the UK let’s say. He happily leaves Malta having just voted ‘No to Divorce’ to live in a state that has divorce. He doesn’t worry that his new UK neighbours are divorced and he won’t even know if they are, in all likelihood. The lives of the divorced people around him – some are new work colleagues – don’t impinge on how he lives his life or what he personally wants out of his future (marriage). Why should he stop fellow Maltese nationals back in Malta getting divorced? His move has just proved divorce laws don’t harm him or infringe his liberties or suppress his beliefs.
2. Maltese and foreign citizens who obtain a divorce in an overseas jurisdiction can have it legally recognised by Maltese law and are free to remarry in Malta. Let’s go as far as to say certain Maltese will always manage to get a divorce, if they have the means. This is an inequity.
3. Annulments are granted by both Church and State, for a defined list of reasons, even if couples have children. This is divorce by another name, for the few, for the ingenious perhaps; and it exposes some parties to humiliation.
4. Legal Separation is a fudged and often distressing state of affairs that leaves the parties unable to remarry and in a perpetual state of limbo. A better scenario than divorce?
Nations can never be homogeneous in beliefs. Let’s stop pretending Malta is. Not all Maltese are Catholic or adhere to catholic values, nor are church goers, nor anti divorce.
Malta needs to get divorce on its statute books, move on and turn itself to more important issues.
Photo: Troy B. Thompson
Talk’s cheap. Nearly all of the conversations and contributions on divorce (and abortion) have their foundations on convenience; not on principle.
It would appear to me, marriage exists for a special purpose. And to emphasize that point, have a look at just how special it is regarded, by the efforts to which people extend themselves for that special day.
I believe it exists to give a man and a woman a special place to be together, and to have, protect and teach children for everyone’s benefit. Especially society.
The weak and feeble minded regard divorce; and abortion for that matter, just a thing you have to do to get on with your life.
The noisy chatterati will say that if someone is not happy they should be able to get a divorce/abortion because it’s not ‘convenient’. Or they’re not ‘happy’. Marriage is not a cell-phone carrier! I’ll just keep on shopping until I find one with whom I’m ‘happy’.
This is the argument to be expected from the shallow and the weak minded and the over-opinionated.
Real men and women seek the other’s well being. They care about each other. They act with integrity. And for those who may not know the meaning of that word; the word easier to understand is ‘morals’.
Dedicated husbands and wives, learn the art of conversation, negotiation, and understanding. As opposed to being a wise-assed feminist (generally), head-kicker; spruking about career and house cleaning. Sure there are men arguing her also; but they should be just as ashamed of themselves.
Being married takes commitment, guts, and determination. To simply pack up your tent to move on demonstrates no back-bone, character or vision as to what a marriage is designed for and what it may achieve. Yes, it’s hard. Very hard. So, if you haven’t got the character or stomach for sacrifice, it certainly isn’t for you. And it’s apparent most of the noisy contributors of the pro divorce debate, fall into that catagory. Marriage is what ties a society together, I believe, because of the sacred promises two people make that hold that agreement above all other desires, hopes and wishes.
As it was said above, it takes guts, character, determination and morals to be married and stay married.
Then we’re right, in fact those who vote NO would still be respecting other people’s views and religious beliefs. They are simply exercising their right to vote.
If saying NO to divorce was wrong, in the 21st century, this referendum would have not been held in the first place!
Elizabeth Ayling says
@Karl, well, more or less agree. Yes, certainly each to his or her own views and vote. But I do worry a bit about your line “Catholics should say no to divorce because they believe God’s teachings are for everyone not just Christians…’. I believe in respecting other people’s views and religious beliefs. Whatever mine are, I would never wish to presume mine are right for others. Just not part of what 21st century humanity should be about.
So we agree that everyone should vote according to what they believe and thus Maltese Catholics should say NO to divorce, as it goes against Christ’s teachings, which is part of what they believe.
Catholics should say no to divorce because they believe that God’s teachings are for everyone not just the Christians and hence if they vote NO, they would be doing the right thing for everyone not simply for themselves.
On the other hand, I think that votes of non-believers should be based on their instinct.
Nevertheless, Catholics should keep in mind that those who divorce and re-marry civilly CANNOT receive Holy Communion or go to confession.
Elizabeth Ayling says
@Karl, your first point is the one important point. Everyone to his / her own beliefs. So if ‘I am all right, Jack” and happily married and a good Catholic, then I should not mind if someone isn’t and wants a divorce. If Malta doesn’t take this opportunity to introduce divorce, then it’s blatantly clear the country is a theocracy not a democracy.
1. poor scenario! Everyone should see divorce according to his/her beliefs (religion), if your God says that He hates divorce, it doesn’t make sense if you vote for it. On the other hand if you’re not Catholic, then your vote should be based on how this will affect you personally, not on what other people say. If everyone says it’s good for them, it doesn’t mean that it is really good for you.
2. like you said “Maltese will always manage to get a divorce, if they have the means”…so if they can already do so, it is not necessary to introduce the law.
3. Church annulment is not divorce. civil annulment is similar to divorce. In Christian belief When two people get married by Church, they become one, and the only permissable option for them to become two again is annulment not divorce.
4. that is why a couple should think twice before taking the serious step of getting married. Marriage is not just sex, it is more than that. If you truly love someone you would be 100% sure to be willing to spend your life with him/her. Or is it a lie when two people say that they will stay together “til death do us part”?
5. if couples truly believe that they love each other and want to spend their lives with each other, they wouldn’t even think of introducing divorce…but apparently true love doesn’t exist anymore. so why get married in the first place, if you know that someday you might want to divorce?
Peter Caruana says
The passage above written by Troy Thompson is probably one of the better I’ve read in such a long time ! I hope that the people who do go to cast their vote , should the Maltese be given the opportunity to voice their opinion in a referendum, have the same clarity of mind and take the wiser decision!
Alison Bezzina says
Only people who truly believe in marriage want divorce. Those who like me think very little about the institution of marriage couldn’t give two hoots…..
CJohn Zammit says
“Non issue.” Spot on!
It’s amazing how much the anti-divorce movement can spin the wheels of irrationality.
Better than a soap-opera … if it were not so cruel to so many.
No matter what corner of the world you call home there is going to be some who hide behind the cloak of religion. Is it okay to say there should be no divorce, but then stay married and have affairs or relationships outside of holy matrimony?
C’mon Malta, get with the 21st Century!
Well said Liz!
Excellent and factual article Liz.
“After all, what matter is it to us that a couple down the street needs a divorce? ”
It just so happens that a single one of your statements covers the entire basis of my argument here: http://markbiwwa.com/2011/02/02/divorce-wars-kick-off-in-malta/