Last summer, Michael Briguglio, a sociologist and chairman of the Maltese Green party, opened what may be a new chapter in the history of Malta. Angry that his country was one of only two in the world in which divorce is banned – the other being the Philippines – he sent a formal request to all members of parliament to propose legalising it. After a good deal of political wrangling, a national referendum was announced. As this article was going to press, the people of Malta were about to cast their votes.
Briguglio separated from his wife in 2006, and has long been frustrated that he could not get divorced. He could have gone abroad to do it – Malta bans divorce domestically but recognises it internationally – but this, he says, would have been “prohibitively expensive”. So he is filing for annulment, in which the court rules that one or both parties were not in their right minds at the time of marriage. This is complicated, time-consuming (it can take up to eight years) and costly. It is also psychologically brutal – an annulment suggests that your marriage, with all its memories, was never valid in the first place.