OpinionsGender BenderWho needs divorce?

Who needs divorce?


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Apparently, hardly anyone does, judging by many comments against or outright objections to a bill in the House of Representatives proposing a law on divorce.

They say that the remedies of annulment and legal separation already exist to address irreparable marriage problems, and that moreover, marriage is sacred and should be indissoluble.

Certainly, ex-president Josesph Estrada didn’t need a divorce to ditch his legal wife and mother of (some of) his children to live with Guia Gomez for many years producing a favorite son, then to go on to have three children with Laarni Enriquez, and so on, for a total of 11 children with six women.

The lack of clarity on his views on the sanctity of marriage and family, or his other proclivities of questionable legality, did in no way affect his appeal to the electorate who made him president (vox populi, vox dei?), and who also put him in second place in the last presidential election! This example shows how a disorderly lifestyle is acceptable, so why would divorce be needed?

Estrada didn’t even bother with the notion of annulment which is a favorite hypocrisy of many of the rich and famous in this country.

A university friend of mine, whose family was then a pillar of the economy, married the daughter of a powerful political family to great pomp and ceremony — wedding dress from Paris, international guests flown in, etc. The marriage produced children but apparently, the two didn’t quite manage to sustain those loving feelings over the years. The marriage was annulled.

The problem with annulment is that it posits that a fatal flaw existed when the marriage ceremony took place, such as coercion, mental illness, impotence, fraud (concealment of homosexuality, pregnancy by another, etc) that are grounds to nullify the marriage.

In the case of my friend, none of those grounds obtained; he and his wife went into the marriage sane, healthy, and in love, but they were also rich and influential so that when their relationship broke down, their lawyers managed anyway to obtain an annulment. In later years, both parties remarried.

If the rich can get an annulment, or like Erap, merely brazen it as the general public sets no moral standards anyway where their betters are concerned, the very poor may not be too concerned at all with the idea of divorce, perhaps from a sense of in any case being neglected by the law.

Therefore, the social arrangement is common of “living-in” without the benefit of marriage, or of simply moving on to other relationships as needed.

Then there is the recourse of legal separation which allows a married couple to part ways on a number of grounds: violence, drug or alcohol addiction, abandonment, infidelity, and others. In such cases, although they live separately, they retain their married status, and neither party may remarry.

So what options are there for people in loveless or violent or otherwise difficult marriages to get a second chance for a good relationship, if they can’t afford or do not accept the dishonesty required to get an annulment?

They either remain in painful and unhappy situations (with the misery inevitably infecting their children), move away and live on their own – particularly difficult for poor women with children, or else, do the “immoral” thing of living with a new partner without marriage.

Clearly, who need a divorce law are those who must acknowledge that their marriage has irreparably broken down, and who wish for a legal and orderly close to that marriage, leaving the possibility open that life may be kind and bring a new and good and lasting relationship, with the recognized legal status of marriage.

The Philippines is today the only country in the world without a law making divorce possible.

Religious opponents of the bill crow that this country must be proud to be a bastion of morality. To claim to champion morality while being callous to human suffering rings hollow, not to mention the immorality of exerting undue influence to deny rights to non-Catholics or others who think differently.

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