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Andre' Camilleri: 'No cure for divorce'

Anti-divorce movement chairman Andre Camilleri tells Christian Peregin solutions proposed by every European country have made the problem worse.

Recently we asked if your campaign is being funded by the Church and the Nationalist Party. But we didn’t get an answer. Is it?

We get help from the sources we ask for help.

Did you ask the Church or the PN?

We did not ask specifically...

Did they contribute? Do you deny they gave you funding?

We received a lot of help from people who have certain political and religious beliefs.

What about the PN as an organisation and the Church as an institution?

We’ve already said that the first premises offered to us was from a parish. We used it and still do. But the bulk of our funding is coming via SMS donations.

You said things will be made public after the referendum, so eventually we’re going to know if the Church gave you a cheque.

We will publish what we spent and where it came from.

One of your main arguments is that you do not want a no-fault divorce. Would you accept a fault-based system of divorce?

We’re saying that at this point in time, with the strength of Maltese families, let’s not talk about divorce, let’s invest in the families we have, because the government has been absent from all this unfortunately.

In separations and divorce fault does not determine whether you can leave your partner or not. It guides the discussion on maintenance and succession. If that discussion is already settled through separation, as the Bill says, doesn’t it become redundant to argue against divorce because it is not fault-based?

You’re assuming that all separations end up before a judge who decrees who pays maintenance to whom.

I’m talking about legal separations.

Yes, but there are other types of separation. There are people who just walk out of a marriage, and with the law as proposed, after four years they can go and ask for a divorce.

But the Bill clearly states that if you have not been legally separated, you will have to go through a legal separation. And anyway, even in separation law there is such a thing as a no-fault separation.

The divorce law allows one party to impose it...

...As is done in separation. What’s the difference?

You may have a party that does not want divorce.

You may have a party that does not want separation or annulment.

But in separation that marriage remains.

On paper, though.

It is there. Neither of the parties can marry again.

But do you think someone should be able to prevent another person from leaving them? Today a person can get up and leave their spouse – that’s separation.

By enacting this divorce law the state would allow the party – even the one who caused the break-up – to not only separate from his spouse, but actually impose a divorce on him or her after a period of four years so they can remarry.

And that’s something you feel is unjust.

Initially they said the state cannot impose on people to stay married if they don’t want to. The imposition is, on the other hand, here in this law.

Like it is in separation... At the beginning of the campaign you said divorce could be a “solution” for some individuals, but the common good goes beyond any individual needs. Now your campaigners say it is not a solution. Is it a solution for these couples?

Of course. As I said there are thousands if not millions all over the world that have divorced and settled. But can we ignore a situation where the second marriage, all over, has a higher rate of failure than the first marriage? And the third marriage has an even higher rate than the second?

What are you basing this one on?

These are real facts and statistics. When we started explaining these, the pro-divorce lobby shouted us down and said you can’t talk about people as though they are numbers. But those numbers are useful for this discussion.

If the legislator could give them a remedy without impacting other marriages, I would be for it as well. But this is fantasy, it doesn’t work that way.

Initially you said divorce increases marital breakdown. Do you have statistics to prove this is happened in all the other countries in the world which you claim to have studied?

All over... Italy... And we’ve published these...

Ireland is a good country to go by because divorce was introduced fairly recently and, like Malta, it has a Catholic tradition. The ESRI study shows that 10 years since its introduction there’s absolutely no evidence to show it influenced the marital breakdown rate.

Does it mention the rate of cohabitation? How much has it gone up?

Since 1986, not 1997, it’s gone up by 400 per cent.

That is an indicator that people, after divorce was introduced, found marriage irrelevant. If the lifelong commitment disappears, people will opt for cohabitation rather than marriage.

But that’s happening in Malta too as well as the rest of the world. People are opting for cohabitation before marriage. It doesn’t mean an increase in cohabitation would be detrimental to society.

That’s the experience of England. Cohabitation has hurt the UK.

But in Ireland, has divorce increased marital breakdown?

Yes, it has.

The studies show it hasn’t.

Define marital.

Breakdown of a marriage.

When you don’t have marriages, of course you’ll have a decrease in marital breakdown. People have opted for more cohabitation, less marriage. So less marital breakdown. But are the cohabitees happily together? I can send you another study published by the Iona institute about Ireland which explains all of these.

I have the Iona study here. It says marital breakdown has actually slowed down.

Because there are fewer marriages.

What are the other effects of divorce which are so detrimental to society?

The studies of what happened to families and marriages after the introduction of divorce show, invariably, that family and marriage have suffered, not improved.

Suffered at a faster rate?

Yes. A study conducted over more than 20 years by two academics shows that divorce, particularly no-fault divorce, contributed to the increase in marital breakdown.

I have that study here too. What it says is that in 50 years divorce became easier to obtain across Europe. And that – making it easier – is what can account for a 20 per cent increase in divorce. But that takes into consideration places like Portugal where you can now get a divorce online within an hour. It’s not talking about a four-year period divorce.

The pro-divorce lobby (last) week finally admitted there is no guarantee that it will remain four years. Every country started with high barriers to divorce... But it gets eroded. Even in Ireland there’s a lobby to reduce it and I believe they will succeed.

When you’re opposing a solution which the rest of the world provided to its citizens you would be expected to come up with an alternative. What is the alternative to divorce?

You cannot propose a solution to every problem. The solution offered by every other countryin Europe has worsened the problem.

In 1973 Malta was discussing the decriminalisation of homosexuality and adultery. Back then, the Nationalist Party, which opposed this change, used similar arguments you are making today. They said, and I quote, the situation of the Maltese family did not “warrant the proposed changes” and that instead we should “protect the Maltese family”. Don’t you think you’re on the wrong side of history?

Absolutely not.

Do you think divorce will be introduced some day?

I would put the question differently. Can we remain the only European country (without divorce), if it pays our society?

Do you think we can live in a situation where people are prevented from remarrying after their marriage breaks down?

I’m talking about helping people not to have a marriage breakdown.

But what about those who will break up anyway?

If divorce is going to cause others to break up, and that’s the evidence overseas, I would look at the wider picture.

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