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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Till divorce do us part...

I decided to vote NO to the introduction of divorce for the upcoming referendum. I am not taking this decision on the basis of my religion or belief. Rather, I base my judgment on the simple fact that if I voted yes to divorce, I would be deciding without knowing the possible implications divorce will have on Maltese society as a whole and on the family in particular. Granted, both pro and anti divorce camps have cited evidence that support their arguments. However, useful as they may be, studies conducted abroad go only as far as providing examples of potential scenarios. Indeed, to have a proper insight on the possible impact of divorce legislation, it is crucial that we examine the state of the Maltese family and also take into account our particular cultural, historical and economical characteristics essential if we really want to encourage stronger marriages.

Unfortunately, instead of considering how, for example, divorce will affect future generations or those at risk of poverty and social exclusion, some are exploiting the divorce debate to forward their anti-clerical agendas. While I agree that there needs to be more separation between the state and the Church, using divorce to achieve this goal is both irresponsible and, yes, selfish. As a non-practicing Catholic, I feel that my voice and opinion is being misrepresented as fundamentalist simply because I happen to agree with the Church’s position on the issue. In addition, people who are against divorce like myself are further being accused of ‘imposing’ their views on others and only thinking of their own interests.

However, aren’t we imposing divorce on future generations? Especially, if you consider that we are taking a leap in the dark since we have not bothered to understand why some marriages are failing. Have we stopped to reflect on the causes of marital breakdown in the first place? Have we explored ways to alleviate the pain and suffering of couples experiencing problems and invested in providing proper support and guidance? Have we asked ourselves whether couples are committing themselves to marriage without really appreciating that a married life has its ups and downs? Are we bringing up our children to develop the values of love and respect for others and the skills of listening and communication – so essential for any human relationship and for a healthy married life in particular?

Thus, I sincerely believe that the only responsible answer to the question posed by the divorce referendum is a NO vote. In a future when I am faced by evidence to suggest that divorce will be of benefit to Malta, I might reconsider my stance. But only if such a decision is for the common good and not based on anyone’s personal agendas. Call me egoistic, but at the moment, if I decide to marry in the future, I will do so with a commitment to a life together with my partner till death divides us. After all, in Malta, very few are forced into marriage. But, sadly, very few take the time to understand each other.

Background Information

Malta is the only European member state with no divorce legislation. Even if Malta recognizes the status of foreign divorcees, Maltese people cannot be divorced locally while the process of attaining a divorce involves considerable cost and time. While there have been debates on whether divorce should be introduced in the last few years, a decision to hold a referendum over the issue was reached following the approval of a private members bill proposed by a government MP. The issue of divorce in Malta is still highly controversial, dividing the public between those who are in favour and those who are against.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church still plays an influential position in Maltese society and its strong objection to divorce appears to have exposed a movement that wants to remove the power of the Church in society. To be fair, the Church still plays a considerable amount of influence but, on the other hand, it must be said that it also offers a wide range of social services and support to those in need which is not available by the state.

The debate on the referendum scheduled for Saturday, 28 May, has ended up with issues related to religious teachings with those who are in favor accusing those against divorce of imposing their religious views on others who may be facing difficult marital breakdowns. Ironically, those in favour of divorce have made it a point to emphasize that they are "practicing Christians" but respect the right to others of a different view to choose over their life.

While there is some merit to this reasoning, it is problematic as the pro-divorce lobby has persisted in labeling those who hold another view as, amongst others "selfish", "heartless" and "fundamentalist". However, for those who feel that divorce may be the solution based on evidence or lack of it, the battle that drags in religion into the debate only helps to alienate people, like myself, who hold a stance against divorce unless persuaded otherwise.

The referendum law will decide whether or not a legislation to permit a couple to divorce and remarry after they have been legally separated for at least 4 years. The introduction of divorce has been hailed by the pro-divorce movement as giving another chance to women experiencing domestic violence, while the anti-divorce group has highlighted the harmful implications it will have on children and on the concept of marriage itself.