Passing the buck back to the electorate

Published: July 10, 2010 at 11:31pm


I feel that the privilege of deciding on something important and vital to our society – the family – should not be taken by 69 MPs but by the electorate.” – the prime minister, last Wednesday

We elect MPs to take decisions on our behalf, not to chicken out of taking them and pass the buck back to us.

An amendment to the Civil Code – which is what divorce simply is – does not require or justify a referendum vote. And that is quite apart from the fact that a referendum is a democratic tool and should not be used – cynically – to hinder democratic development.

We are not talking EU membership here.

We are not talking integration with Britain.

We are talking about amending the Civil Code to allow for the de jure termination of a contract of marriage when that marriage is de facto well and truly over.

Divorce cannot possibly affect further a family unit that has broken down already – not negatively, anyway.

It is very strange that the prime minister should seek to create such special status and significance around divorce when no divorce law can ever change the nature, shape, function and administration of the Maltese family unit as fundamentally – and permanently – as did that piece of legislation known as ‘Shab Indaqs fiz-Zwieg’.

I saw no fuss being made there, even though the legislation changed the structure of the family and of marriage completely, removing the husband as head of the household and elevating the wife from her former status of disenfranchised child to that of equal status with her husband.

I would say that this was a major cause of much of the marital breakdown we have seen since. But it had to be done, even if it meant that people who married under one legal regime suddenly found themselves married under a completely different one.

Nobody in the Nationalist Party spoke about a referendum then. Sticking it in the electoral programme (where nobody noticed it) was enough.

And it shouldn’t even have been a voting matter, should it? Imagine voting on whether to end the subjugation and disenfranchisement of women in marriage. The very idea is as shocking as voting on whether people might be allowed to terminate their marriage contracts when their marriage has long since broken down.