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Malta's divorce law in the international media

Various international media carry the news that the Maltese Parliament has passed the Bill providing for the introduction of divorce as of October 1.

The BBC says, “Parliament in mainly Roman Catholic Malta has passed an historic law legalising divorce which now only requires the president's signature.”

Commenting on the fact that MPs passed the law by 52 votes to 11 with five abstentions and one absence, the Associated Press said that the outcome in parliament “is a crushing victory considering that most laws in Malta are passed by just one vote.”

CBS News notes that “19 Nationalist MPs approved the legislation, going against their party's official stand”.

In the UK, The Independent says “Maltese citizens will no longer have to travel abroad to divorce, following yesterday's overwhelming vote in favour, finally allowing couples to end their marriages at home on the heavily Catholic island nation.”

AFP says “The law was passed following a referendum in May which voted in favour of the change despite the opposition of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and his ruling Nationalist Party.” It quotes Dr Gonzi saying, “The amendments to the original Divorce Bill had improved the law but this does not mean I'm happy with it.” He added that he fet "uncomfortable" about the introduction of divorce in Malta, which was "why I voted against it".

ABC News quotes Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat describing the Prime Minister's vote as "inexplicable," saying Dr Gonzi had once again ignored how the people voted in the referendum. It adds  that “Up to now, Maltese citizens could only obtain divorce abroad. In the last 30 years, 785 Maltese couples divorced this way, with numbers gradually rising from seven in 1981 to 47 in 2010.”

Under the heading “Maltese Parliament overturns divorce ban”, France 24 makes reference to the stand of the church, saying that “The Roman Catholic Church, which looms large over the archipelago where 95 percent of the population is Catholic, did not campaign officially in May's non-binding referendum in which 53 percent of voters cast ballots in favour. However, Valletta's Archbishop Paul Cremona had warned churchgoers in a letter they faced a choice between building and destroying family values. In addition, priests reportedly threatened to refuse communion to those who voted yes".

The Scottish Daily Express notes Malta had been the only European Union nation without divorce legislation, adding that “the vote was a blow to the ruling Nationalist Party, which had opposed divorce ahead of the referendum”.

Canada.com says the vote in parliament “was not short of controversy after Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, a staunch Catholic who campaigned against the introduction of divorce, voted against the Bill. “I voted according to my conscience, and my conscience doesn't allow me to be a hypocrite, or to declare myself in favour of something I don't believe in,” Gonzi told reporters after the vote. However, Gonzi also said his decision was based on the knowledge that a majority of parliamentarians intended to vote in favour of the divorce bill.

And Manila’s Radio Natin notes that “now that Malta has finally approved divorce, the Philippines is the only country left without such law”.

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