[LIVE blog] The Today Debate - ‘Will we be better off with divorce in Malta?’

Follow our live blog from The Palace Hotel, Sliema where the Today Debate on divorce is taking place.

Speakers are Deborah Schembri and Marlene Mizzi for the Moviment Iva ghad-Divorzju and Joyce Cassar and Austin Bencini for Moviment Zwieg bla Divorzju. Moderated by Mediatoday's managing director Dr Roger de Giorgio.

20:51 The debate has ended.

Deborah Schembri says cohabitation, children born out of wedlock and to unknown fathers are increasing irrespective of whether there is divorce or not. "There is no cause-and-effect... the reality is that we have a rate of marital breakdowns and something must be done for these couples." She adds that the common good is not there to be decided by those who are in a steady marriage, but for everybody to be provided for, including those whose marriages have broken down.

Austin Bencini asks whether voters have all the information necessary to vote in this referendum; He also asks whether people who have had children out of wedlock, and who have never been married, should not be given a cohabitation that will regulate thyeir affairs.  "As a minority, shouldn't these people be given their law... divorce will increase the number of cohabiting people because it will reduce their faith in marriage."

20:40 Marlene Mizzi says a society where less people are cohabiting because they can remarry and have a legitimate marriage and family, is far more desirable.

20:35 Joyce Cassar says fatherlessness, as experienced in the UK, shows a link to child drug dependence and youth delinquency.

20:34 Concluding remarks

20:27 A member of the audience says her lawyer told her a court separation would have cost her some Lm3,000 in legal fees and would have left her with a small Lm50 monthly maintenance.

20:21 A member of the audience asks what sort of work is being made by the government to prepare people entering marriage and to stop marriages from breaking down.

20:18 Another member of the audience says he pays maintenance to his former spouse, is now living with his new partner and has a child form her. "I work three jobs because I have to maintain my first family, and my new one. I don't want an annulment because my marriage was a good one. So I have the right to form a new family recognised by civil law, so my partner doesn't have to leave the country (he says she is Ukranian) to revalidate her visa because she is not my wife."

20:16 Austin Bencini: Our law guarantees maintenance for separated spouses... but only in the first marriage; and even reduce the maintenance in the first marriage so that it can be paid to a second spouse (considering a second marriage that has broken down).

20:10 Joyce Cassar says that, in spite of her marriage problems [she is separated], she is trying to promote strong marriages but people who have happy marriages are supporting divorce.

20:07 Deborah Schembri, Joyce Cassar tell a member of the audience that in future, no referenda are required for amendments to the divorce law. Cassar adds that it would depend on the MPs inside parliament, and this could open the door to a shorter separation period before divorce is granted.

20:03 Austin Bencini: It's not the law that will solve many people's personal problems. It's human solidarity.

20:02 Austin Bencini says that voters must focus on what they are being called to vote upon. The referendum question will not lead to a law that will solve the problems in the family courts or of marriages in difficulty.

19:56 Deborah Schembri answers a question on whether adequate alimony will be guaranteed: Child and spouse maintenance is guaranteed between separated spouses, who are still married; in divorce, a couple does not stay married but the law as proposed still provides for this maintenance to be paid.

19:54 Joyce Cassar says it is impossible for each society to create a structure that solves problems for everyone.

19:51 We're taking some questions which were posted on Facebook and the online comment boards.

19:48 Deborah Schembri: Church annulments take too long and divorce allows such situations to be remedied by not having to go through such long proceedings.

19:42 Austin Bencini: We must be careful throughout this referendum... there are people who are in courts over separation proceedings... But the solution to people's suffering is because of our courts' inefficiencies, but divorce does not provide a solution.

19:36 Another man who is separated has addressed Dr Austin Bencini, and stated that separated couples cannot keep on 'suffering' in civil and ecclesiastical courts - he says his lawyer has no warrant to appear in the ecclesiastical court so he must appoint another lawyer to appear for him in the Church tribunal (which handle marriage annulments and are superior to the Maltese courts on annulment proceedings).

19:33 Joyce Cassar: We have to see the impact of a new mindset that will influence people once divorce is introduced.

19:30 Deborah Schembri: Our law has something missing, and its allowing people to remarry once they separate.

19:26 Austin Bencini answers: Divorce is not the solution to every social difficulty that marriage might bring. Today civil law does make any difference between children born in or out of wedlock.

19:24 Joyce Cassar answers: I empathise with you, I know what it feels like being separated. Today I am single, but don't think I speak without empathy for who is suffering. What I'm saying is that had we been talking on a different form of divorce, I would have spoken in favour of those who have the right not to be in an unhappy marriage.

19:23 A member of the audience says he is separated and is a single parent, and that his wife left him for somebody else. "Have I the right to marry a woman I meet like other people? I know what I've passed from, but you - pointing at Joyce Cassar and Austin Bencini - look happy."

19:16 Marlene Mizzi and Austin Bencini in a spat now over Mizzi's quoting of what the 'common good' was from a document, which she later revealed was the German Nazi party's statute from the 1930s... Bencini said "this is not the place to bring in Nazism."

19:12 Joyce Cassar "I object to no-fault divorce... I object to the possibility that somebody married 20 years can leave their spouse for somebody else. Is this a 'state of fact' that must be legislated?"

19:00 Questions from the floor

19:00 "People should vote in the referendum and not cede to the intimidatory climate... we must vote to protect our national values."

18:58 "The state should not promote the breakdown of the family. Whoever manages to obtain a divorce abroad does not get rubber-stamped by the Maltese courts... a court does not necessarily accept the divorce."

18:56 “Malta should be proud of its stand on divorce."

We lost some comments on the live blog because we lost our internet connection.

18:55 “As a democratic person, even though I am a Catholic, my faith represents the fundamental rights of the human being. The family is recognised as one such right recognised in international conventions and the Maltese Constitution. Divorce is not.”

18:55 Austin Bencini – Moviment Zwieg bla Divorzju

18:49 “Why we don’t do some real research into why marriages are breaking down. The Church is doing its own work to prepare people for marriages... but what is the government doing about preparing people for marriage.”

18:48 “I wonder where all the people against divorce were back in 1975 when the Maltese government introduced civil marriage

18:47 “I have great faith in the values of the Maltese, that they are not fickle, that people don’t just buy into the ‘divorcist mentality’, and that they are more positive about marriage.”

18:46 “Marital breakdown is a trauma for everybody, parents and spouses’ parents included.” 18:39 Marlene Mizzi - Moviment IVA

18:39 "Can anyone tell me what the link is between divorce and marital breakdown when Malta has 20% of broken-down marriages without even having divorce. We have proven there is no link between divorce and marital breakdown."

18:39 Marlene Mizzi - Moviment IVA

18:35 "How are we to deal with minorities? For example, abortion - I don't mean that the two are not linked, but you can have women who say they don't want another child... for example same-sex marriage, isn't this another minority? Shall we defend these minorities?"

18:34 "Introducing divorce introduces a mindset for people to leave their spouses... for example, by encouraging infidelity."

18:33 "We don't talk of cases where husbands meet women and leave their wives, and this divorce being proposed does not cater for such cases where there is this kind of fault in the separation."

18:29 "We must tell people the reality that in the near future divorce can be introduced and legally changed by MPs to have separated people divorce after six months. This is things happened in other countries, from fault to no-fault divorce."

18:29 "Infidelity and extra-marital sex amongst the main reasons that lead to divorce, foreign studies show."

18:27 "We don't allow people to just do things that might be 'wrong'... we make an impact assessment. If anything, divorce provides a legal solution but not a solution to a person's problems or his marital breakdown. The suffering of rejection will not be forgotten."

18:27 Joyce Cassar - Moviment Zwieg Bla Divorzju

18:25 "We want remarriage to be an option, to promote marriage and not cohabitation 'imposed' by the government. Remarriage requires divorce."

18:23 "Who are we to deny the right to divorce and remarry to those people whose marriages have broken down, to enter more stable relationships?"

18:22"If a marriage is broken, and as a state of fact this marriage no longer exists, then this fact must be acknowledged."

18:20"We're in favour of marriage... if divorce will weaken any more marriages than are already broken, I don't see how divorce applies for strong marriages."

18:18 "The marked difference between divorce and separation is that divorce allows your the right to remarriage, which does not exist right now for separated couples."

18:18 Dr Deborah Schembri - Moviment IVA

More in Divorce Referendum
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who will answer this ? What will be the difference , between allready existing seperation law and divorce law?:) from the no movement will be better, so I will ask and answer one by one question/answer
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@ maltimt And what made you think that david caruana is "still a Roman Catholic" believer? Haven't you read that he thinks that "the days of the RC Church are counted (numbered)"? In his dreams, of course. Andy Farrugia
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@David Caruana, there is no comparison of annulment with divorce; as annulment is considered for cases were either of spouses are disloyal, misleading and withholding of critical information, deceiving, prior to marriage! while divorce can be given to all for what ever reason even in cases were either spouse want to run away from their parental / martial responsibilities even towards their children!!! were annulment would not even be considered! and if annulment is granted one can proceed to get child maintenace as its proposed in divorce bill ! now my point is How come the divorce question states guaranteed maintenance to children when every body knows it cannot be so! this is also disloyal and deceiving ! We both know that the question is a hoax! to falsely influence people! by the question its self pro divorce people are already using the children to get their way which i consider very disloyal and abusive! As already told you before my comment has nothing to do with either church nor politics but in the interest of children in the marriage which seems none of pro divorce people care except in the divorce question only to use them but have no concern what so ever about children interests. BTW if you are still a Roman Catholic its your choice but than you have to bide by its believe otherwise just leave it. PS. I don t have to protest against annulment as annulment's are given in a responsible way not like as its proposed in the divorce BILL from which i also quoted and obviously you did not comment bout that!
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@ maltimt Then I hope to see you using this same energy to protest against annulment which does not give ANY guarantee of maintenance whatsoever! "There was never a referendum on anulment..." Of coarse there will never be a referendum on Church matters... it seems that the Roman Catholic church was always untouchable in Malta Cattolicissima. BUT, I'm positive that the winds are changing ;-)
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@ David Caruana, There was never a referendum on anulment with a HOAX question that guarantees maintenance! :-) AS THERE IS NOW!!!! what about the bill proposed did you read it art. 70 (7) IN bill proposed??? IS THIS A RESPONSIBLE proposal in respect of the children in the divorce proceedure? there are no church or political issues in my comment just pointed out the children interest which should COME FIRST!!! AND PROTECTED in such an issue! @falzonsilvio; Divorce question states GUARANTEED MAINTENANCE IN DIVORCE änd not in seperation and if you read my previous comment there is your answer or other wise question should have stated "guaranteed maintenance as it is now in seperation!! but geuss aim was to influence people that children would be protected that why the referendum question is a hoax!
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yes, and as far as I know they had the same bible, still they killed and tortured thousands of people. agree 100% on this.
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@-David Caruana I agree with you about the RC church...but you forgot to mention their crimes of the present which are not few...
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Austin Bencini has always been an assiduous apologist for Lawrence Gonzi and the PN. One wonders whether he is opposing divorce perse, or supporting Lonzu.
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We won't use horsewhips on the bigots. We won't burn you at the stake. We won't use sharp iron forks to mangle breasts. We won't use red hot pincers to tear off flesh. We won't use the turcas to tear out fingernails. We won't insert red hot irons up vaginas and rectums as Popes in the past ordered to do to people who disagreed with th Church's views. We only have to leave you rot in your own shame and bigotry. Shame on all those who think they have the right to shape the lives of others. Shame on anyone who tries to take away the freedom of choice.
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@ maltimt It seems you're part of the scaremongering and deceit wagon led by the RC Church. One simple question to you: Does annulment guarantee ANY kind of maintenance to children? We all know the answer to that! You can go and tell your puppeteers that reason WILL prevail this time and the days of the RC Church are counted.
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in seperation cases ther is no garantee of maintenace for kids, 100% am sure. there are cases where the kids was in care and custody of the father, and the mother unemployed with social benefits for her new born from the next relationship ;-)
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Divorce doesn t break marriages true! but the fact is that divorce gives an open door to marriages! Gives a second chance to spouses to re marry an another open door to it! Thus the most venerable people in marriage are the children and few of the pro divorce have stated/explained how the maintenance will be really and actually guaranteed as the question states! the divorce question its self proves that children will be effected which same question is literally using children to falsly influence voters that children will be protected! If its guaranteed in the same way as to day we all now whats heppening and thats no guarantee at all !The question is a hoax! I am saying this cause the proposed divorce bill states as follows art. "70 (7) On divorce being pronounced, the court shall on the demand of either or both of the spouses, decide on an adequate maintenance for them and the dependent members of their family, according to the following sub-articles:" Is this what is refered to as a responsible divorce proposal where children interested in divorce procedure are decided after divorce is pronounced?????? give love a chance? but where is love and responsibilities from pro divorce parents towards the children?
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example: A woman got married for her own malice to a man , also with church ceremony, After years , when she reached her own goal, she just seperated from the man she married with malice. and went away to live with another man and have kids. So what will divorce do? ahahhaahaahaaaaa All lies to make people afraid of something that is allreday being done . Divorce will no or can do nothing bad. it's allready here but without law to marry. And like Joyce knows it, as she is seperated, that the divorce or seperation are the same, only that who leaves can marry again , same to the one lefted,only if she or he wants. In a relationship if there is LOVE in both persons, there can never be seperation/divorce. but only if there is love . If theer is no love from one side, than the marriage will go hell, its takes two persons to make love works. So all the seperation cases, one of them did not love the other,according to their own acts. So yes Divorce is a MUST. and no church or state can deny that. That is not democracy , all must be free to choose. It's all the PN who in the last years since 1987 have been in goverment, and he did nothing to make these laws.
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"...divorce will increase the number of cohabiting people because it will reduce their faith in marriage" Cohabitation is already increasing dear Dr.Bencini. Divorce or no divorce, us, the younger generations, will politely give the finger to all the bigots and show you that WE are really in control of OUR lives. More and more couples will NOT get married ever. Anyway, it's rather cheap to say that you need a corrupt entity as the State or an expired one as the Church to proclaim you husband and wife. What matters is the love and respect towards each other - the rest is just paperwork. IF, unfortunately, love and respect fade away, why should anyone be doomed to a dead relationship, only because the bigots want so?
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20:10 Joyce Cassar says that, in spite of her marriage problems [she is separated], she is trying to promote strong marriages but people who have happy marriages are supporting divorce. 20:02 Austin Bencini says that voters must focus on what they are being called to vote upon. The referendum question will not lead to a law that will solve the problems in the family courts or of marriages in difficulty. ******************* These debates etc.. are all for nothing. Who can speak for others? who can decide for others what to do in their lives? it's all in vain,. Still people will continue to do the good and the bad. it all depends on the people's way of life. like it or not that's the truth. I personaly don't agree with divorce nor even seperation. both are the same . But every case is different , and there are peopel who really have been lied to , even to get married by lies etc... the people commands thier own lives, and it's all in vain all these speaches, Cause it's them who will decide how to live their lives. "with divorce law or not still all will be the same, but i belive theer will be good couples with it after , they really had a bad marriage even from the begining, yes , I belive more in court, but as I said , it all depends on the people , cause thye command their lives, Noone can stop noone from doing certain things. humans knows how to lie thats one of the problems. But there are people good too in the world, Like their is good their is also bad- we have to live with that. so yes I wil vote yes, not for me but for others. Joyce Austin and every one in the NO movement, "it's for nothing you are doing all this effort, If the law will stopped now, sooner or later will be,and people will still do good and bad, you can control Nooone" the end.
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Ara dawn kollha ta' kontra d-divorzju ma tifhimhomx biex ma nghidx xi haga ohra. Il-Bambin wahdu jaf kemm hutna Maltin bil-barka u t-timbru tal-kappillani dizgrazzjatament Maltin kienu mqabbza l-kju biex inparpruhom lejn l-Awstralja, l-Ingilterra, l-Amerka u lejn kull fejn setghu jehilsu minnhom. Possibbli hadd minn daqs dawk kappillani, isqfijiet u avukati li llum qed jahraqhom mas ntebhu li qed nibghatuhom f'pajjizi fejn hemm id-divorzju jew l-aqwa li jekk kienu laburisti hlisna minnhom. Tghid dawk il-mijiet li llum qed jahdmu Brussel huma nkwetati li Brussel hemm id-divorzju u jekk iridu jistghu jehduh? Kif ma tghidulna xejn fuq dan il-periklu modern sinjuri tal-LE? Ma nghamlux mod li hemm minnkom li qed tithajru tmorru Brussels, fil- kaz ahsbuha sew u tmorrux! Ma ddejqu xejn l-anqas jibghatu t-tfal li gew abbuzati l-Awqstralja u ja oqbra mbajjda jghattu lil min wettaq dawk ir-rejati moqzieza fuq dawk it-tfal innocenti, kif wara kollox ghamlu hawn. Lil klandestini iriduna nzommu hawn. Ghax ma zammewx lil dawk l-eluf u eluf ta' haddiema u tfal Maltin hawn Malta? Dawn il-karfa iridu d-divorzju ghal ghonja biss u jafu li l-annulament hu facli ghal xi whud minnhom. Hemm bzomm li l-poplu jqum wahda sew mir-raqda li ghandu u jkisser u jarmi il-ktajjen ta' dawn in-nies li jridu jzommuna taht saqajhom bi skuza jew ohra. Imma fuq din tad-divorzju ma kellhom hila jgibu l-anqas argument wiehed sura ta' nies. Ma tawx raguni ghalhiex koppja li z-zwieg taghhom spicca, miet, infirdu, prbabbilment pogguti m'ghandniex inhalluhom jiehdu cans iehor biex huma u t-tfal taghhom jghixu kuntenti u ma jibqghux jissejhu pogguti u t-tfal bghula. Tidhru kuntenti li dawn l-isfurtunati jibqghu ibghatu u jibqghu taht il-hakma taghkom. Min illum jahseb li hu/hi u familthom jinstazbu tajjeb u ma jonqoshom xejn, attenti ghax ma tafux il-futur x'fih ghalikom u ghal familtkom Tghid jekk Malta jkollna d-divorzju, l-annulamenti tal-popolin jonqsu kif jonqos l-introjtu ta' min jipprovdi l-annulament. Illum ma tiskanta b'xejn.
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"Joyce Cassar says that, in spite of her marriage problems [she is separated], she is trying to promote strong marriages but people who have happy marriages are supporting divorce." Exactly. It might have something to do with people in strong and happy marriages being capable of wishing others similar happiness in their lives, even if it means divorce and remarriage. What some are doing is NOT supporting strong marriages, but asking people to remain stuck in unhappy marriages for the rest of their lives, thus giving up on the chance of building other, happier marriages and new lives. Obliging people to hang onto dead marriages for dear life (what life?) does not equate into "promoting strong marriages" - not by a long shot.
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20:16 Austin Bencini: Our law guarantees maintenance for separated spouses... but only in the first marriage; Your premise is wrong -- maintenance for separated spouses? Aren't we living in 2011? Who should maintain which spouse? The husband maintains the wife? The wife maintains the husband? And if so, why? Oh great, so I'm a guy/gal, I decide to quit work, live at home and take care of the house and kids in the comfortable reassurance that were anything to go wrong, my wife is on a registered payroll so in the event of separation she'd then be bound to support me and the kids financially? Nice law if that's the way it is... Not.
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I'd support Joyce Cassar and Austin Bencini if they were campaigning against marriage breakdowns. I'm pretty sure that all readers, irrespective of religious preferences, are against marriage breakdowns. An irretrievable break-down of marriage is one of the worst things which can happen in life, following only that of the death of a loved person. However I can't agree with either Mrs Cassar or Dr Bencini since they're arguing about something which might happen AFTER a marriage breakdown i.e. after all the damage has been done and after it's been assured that there's no way the couple can get back together. For Ms Joyce and Dr Austin, annulling a marriage is ok. Even if both parties re-marry and start 2 separate families with respective kids apart from the one they had together. Irrespective of the children from previous marriages. For Ms Joyce and Dr Austin, separating is ok. Even though it's "daddy & mummy not being together", i.e. the family break-up, most traumatic for the kids. For Ms Joyce and Dr Austin cohabiting with other partners is ok... As far as I know many people cohabit in this country, albeit perhaps it's their only choice, but no pressure was ever made against cohabitation by the government. Rather, the government wanted to institutionalize and hence regularize cohabitation. For Ms Joyce and Dr Austin getting a divorce in another country like the UK or Sicily (or anywhere else apart from the Philippines for now) and getting it recognised in Malta is OK... And it's OK for such people to remarry, have a family and kids... This is contradictory: if, as they say, divorce isn't legislated for here because it harms "the family" how come a divorce obtained abroad is recognized? (note in the Philippines foreign-obtained divorces aren't recognized unlike Malta). Does a divorce obtained abroad harm a family even less? (Well if nothing it harms the family's finances because it will cost tens of thousands of € )
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Quoting Austin Bencini "there are people who are in courts over separation proceedings... But the solution to people's suffering is because of our courts' inefficiencies, but divorce does not provide a solution." Whoever said that divorce is a solution to separation proceedings? Separation is something which not only has to happen before divorce, but is a pre-requisite of such. Whether divorce as a civil right is available or not, separation proceedings will always happen with all the trauma associated with them. Separation always happens when two spouses can't continue as a couple. When spouses separate is the moment where the children are put through the hardest trauma. Whatever occurs after the heart-break of separation is irrelevant - whether the marriage is annulled and both parties re-marry and have kids and a separate family, whether either or both parties start cohabitating with other partners... Here we're talking of what happens AFTERWARDS. Everyone knows that marriage breakup is undesirable. If the government and the catholic church want to strengthen marriages they should try to do just so (though I doubt it's the govt's job). When a couple irremediably splits up, it's too late. The 'damage' (if it can be called so in certain cases) due to splitting up has already been done.
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they are just talking between themselves, Austin Bencini "The family is recognised as one such right recognised in international conventions and the Maltese Constitution. Divorce is not.” *************** first you are just speaking in a preaching way," what about those broken marriages with and one or both couples, allready with new kids. you want to say that the first couple is still married? hahaahaaa these people comes with such ridicolous preachings. and thsoe 28% born out of wedlock, this si never ending. nah i go watch TV, I did well not go there- would have gone out after 15 mins. what about the benefits of seperation? living in a bad marriage is Hell. One must get out of it right away. and in years after all is healed , why not he or she deserves a second chance? i know people who stayed married in a bad marriage, and they had suffered so much that now they are old , and kinda sick in thier minds with all the sufferings they passed from. If one finds love , why you want to stop them from marrying?.
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“Malta should be proud of its stand on divorce." "Malta" has taken no such stand. That remains yet to be seen. What you mean is the PN's stand together with that of (naturally) the Church. That does not mean - necessarily - that "Malta" will comply.
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All these talks and debates. Like it or not , Divorce will prevail. Just wait and see
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Ask Joyce please, What difference there is , between seperation and divorce? aren't both the same? seperated people means that between them marriage still exists, is not that ridicolous, when in the majority of cases , one of them allready is in a new relationship with new kids? Besides if they marry , the social benefit will stop, and they can get married, and be responsable.
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18:34 "Introducing divorce introduces a mindset for people to leave their spouses... for example, by encouraging infedility." wrong Number 2. Nothing new, what you are saying is not true, cuase that allready exsists in the mind of the person-
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18:33"We don't talk of cases where husbands meet women and leave their wives, and this divorce being proposed does not cater for such cases where there is this kind of fault in the separation." Joyce , you allready started wrong, what about wives?:)