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Europe

Parliament overturns divorce ban

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-07-26

Malta's parliament on Monday adopted a law permitting divorce, which is expected to take effect in October on the archipelago. Malta and the Philippines, both overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, are the only countries in the world where divorce is banned.

AFP - Malta's parliament on Monday adopted a law authorising divorce that is now set for formal approval by the president and is expected to come into force in October in this overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

The law was passed by 52 votes in favour and 11 against with five abstentions, 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.

Nineteen of the Nationalists' 35 deputies in parliament voted for the law.

Malta and the Philippines are currently the only countries in the world to ban divorce, and Malta is the only state in Europe apart from the Vatican to have a ban.

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".

Legal separation is widespread in Malta but marriages currently can only be annulled by the Catholic Church's Ecclesiastical Tribunal in a complex and rare procedure that takes around eight years.

The only exception to the divorce ban is for Maltese married to foreign nationals or Maltese who are permanent residents abroad.

Before Malta, Chile was the last country to legalise divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure.
 

Date created : 2011-07-25

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