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Malta's new laws: same-sex marriage, pet pigs and driving penalty points

What entered the statute books in 2017

The passage of the Marriage Equality Act in July was enthusiastically welcomed by same-sex marriage advocates. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

The passage of the Marriage Equality Act in July was enthusiastically welcomed by same-sex marriage advocates. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

From marriage equality to a penalty point driving licence system to rules on keeping pet pigs, the past year saw a number of new laws enter the statute books – some momentous, others less so.

The one that perhaps attracted the most attention was Malta becoming the 25th country in the world to allow same-sex marriage with the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in July, three years after the introduction of civil unions.

While all three parties in Parliament supported the law, controversy nevertheless arose over the replacement of words like ‘husband’, ‘wife’, ‘mother’ and ‘father’ with their gender-neutral equivalents.

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo defied his party’s whip and voted against the law for that reason.

The marriage equality milestone followed close on the heels of legislation recognising another form of relationships in the shape of the cohabitation law introduced in April.

Couples living together for at least two years are now automatically granted rights such as the recognition as next of kin in medical situations and the right not to testify against each other in court. Couples who wish to can enter a more formal agreement with additional rights and obligations.

December introduced a new way to become a Maltese citizen: by rendering “exceptional service to the Republic or to humanity” or by showing that your citizenship would be of “exceptional interest” to the country.

You are excluded if you have a criminal record, are wanted by Interpol, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court or engage in acts likely to bring disrepute

You are, however, excluded if you have a criminal record, are wanted by Interpol, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court or engage in activities likely to bring Malta into disrepute.

Some laws came in response to events, such as a ban on ‘bump stocks’, attachments that enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire faster, which were used in the deadly Las Vegas shooting last October.

Accompanying changes to arms regulations limited the use of airsoft and paintball guns to designated areas and, curiously, banned slingshots for any use other than fishing or fish feeding.

Two traffic laws generated a lot of discussion. One is a long-awaited requirement for school van drivers to install seat belts. The other introduced the penalty point system, such that drivers lose their licences if they rack up too many points for contraventions such as drink-driving, using a phone or running red lights.

There was bad news for those who enjoy a drink in Gżira and Victoria after the passage of bye-laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in gardens, on roads and on pavements.

But it was good news for hunters and trappers, much to the chagrin of environmentalists, after the controversial extension of hunting hours in the Majjistral Nature Park.

And some laws you may be excused for missing. The Swine Rearing and Keeping Rules, for example, introduced new regulations for swine farmers but also mean anyone hoping to buy a pet pig must first apply for a licence (for which you must be aged over 18) and can only keep one pig per person, and no more than two on the same site.

Some of the laws to come in 2018…

The controversial Media and Defamation Bill was unveiled in February but sent back to the drawing board.

The second draft, which ditches the plan to double civil libel damages to €20,000, is now before Parliament.

A law to modernise the way in which gender-based violence and domestic violence are dealt with, in line with the Istanbul Convention, is close to finalisation.

The availability of medicinal cannabis could take a step forward with a law to allow doctors, including GPs, to prescribe cannabinoid derivatives when no alternatives are available.

Under the new laws introduced in 2017…

You can…
■ Become a Maltese citizen for exceptional service to the Republic.
■ Marry a person of the same sex.
■ Receive legal recognition of your cohabiting relationship.
■ Hunt in Majjistral Nature Park until 12.30pm.
■ Lose your driving licence if you receive too many penalty points.

You cannot…
■ Drink on Gżira or Victoria’s streets.
■ Own more than one pet pig or own a pet pig without a licence.
■ Install a rapid-fire ‘bump stock’ on your assault rifle.
■ Drive a van without seat belts to carry schoochildren.

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