Of course! Now I get it. And there I was, thinking that Malta had managed to resist the introduction of divorce for so long out of some sort of perverse overdose of “Christian values” (whatever those obscure things are supposed to be).
Now I realise that it’s just a case of ordinary, everyday expedience. Why would anyone in his right mind bother filing for divorce in a court of law – engaging expensive things like lawyers, and getting the details of his private life splashed about by the media – when the exact same outcome can be achieved with hardly any hassle, and at far less cost... by simply murdering your wife?
Yes indeed: divorzju à la Maltija. It is even recommended by the Bible. “That which God hath joined together, let no man put asunder”: a minor and much misunderstood commandment, which only makes sense in the context of the following, extraordinary proviso: “until death do us part.”
Do we really need Albert Einstein to put those two quotes together, and come up with the perfect solution to all Malta’s marital woes? Some people evidently don’t, with results that sometimes soak roads, pavements and the occasional rooftop with human blood.
And when you stop to think about it: murder is so, so much more convenient a solution to marital breakdown than divorce can ever hope to be. Not only does the husband get to keep both halves of the family estate... but there is no alimony to be paid afterwards, and unlike all the available legal alternatives – separation, cohabitation, life as a hermit, etc. – he even gets the chance to marry again. (And again, and again, and again, if you get my drift.)
Hardly surprising, then, that everybody and his dog is now falling over himself in the mad scramble to have his wife conveniently taken out of the picture once and for all. By my count there have been around 16 real or attempted uxoricides in the past four minutes alone; and judging by the sheer inventiveness of the methods used, there appears to be literally no limit to the ways in which one’s wife can be duly dispatched.
Let’s see now: you can strangle her, throttle her, drown her, shoot her, bludgeon her to death with a variety of kitchen utensils, run her over with the family SUV, stab her multiple times with a pointed instrument... and if all else fails, you can always fall back on the time-honoured Gozitan method, and simply chuck her into the nearest well.
All of these methods have been utilised, sometimes with spectacularly brutal results, over the past few years – proof, if any were still needed, that murder is becoming an increasingly popular solution to the otherwise insoluble problem of Malta’s declining family values.
And yet, there will always be a few irritating spoilsports who will try and ruin the fun for everybody, by pointing out the teeny, weeny fly in the ointment.
Their main argument, these annoying little busybodies, is that murder (contrary to both popular perception and common sense) is actually illegal in his country. Yes, you read right. We are evidently living in an old-fashioned and unenlightened society, which still deems the taking of a human life to be a crime punishable by up to life in prison. Can you believe it?
Wait, it gets worse. For apart from denying ordinary, tax-paying citizens the right to terminate their marriage as they deem fit, Maltese law still presumes to dictate to a married man what he is and is not allowed to do with his own private property. In this day and age, too! So a husband is no longer permitted, for instance, to beat his wife to a pulp for burning his toast, or to chain her night and day to the kitchen sink, or even to auction her on eBay.
(On paper, at any rate. For let’s face it: since when has the law ever stopped anybody from doing precisely what he pleases? But more of this another time...)
This brings me to the second drawback with murder as a viable alternative to divorce. Believe it or not, you could conceivably find yourself up in a tiny spot of trouble.
To be honest, it remains a highly unlikely prospect, in a country where the police only seem to ever take action when ordered to do so by Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt and/or Archbishop Paul Cremona.
And let’s face it: the former seems to think that anything is permissible, no matter what, so long as it is perpetrated by a Nationalist supporter; while the latter is altogether too busy writing pastoral letters about “indecency in female attire” to bother with something as relatively trivial as a sudden epidemic of wife-murdering.
So the chances of actually being brought to justice remain somewhat on the remote side... and even if they do materialise: well, what’s the worst that can possibly happen?
The great likelihood is that – after your case has been repeatedly deferred for seven or eight years (in the course of which you will naturally be allowed to travel around the world “for business purposes”... and if anyone complains about it, you can always sue for libel and then force them to apologise to you in court) – you will eventually stand trial for murder in the first degree.
When this happens, the jury will most likely be as close to an all-male affair as it is possible to be without genetic modification. Admittedly, women are no longer banned outright from standing as jurors, as they used up until around, er, six years ago... but I am told that female jurors remain a conspicuous minority, in a country where a certain former Attorney General is on record as saying that “most women have never had to take a decision for serious than the choice of colour for the bathroom tiles...”
As for the judge... well, let’s face it: you’d have to be really goddamn unlucky to be assigned the only one in the entire country to have been conceived with XX chromosomes instead of XY.
For those who failed their Biology Matsec this week, that’s an allusion to Malta’s only female judge – yes, folks, like Highlander, “there can only be one” – who sits together with innumerable male colleagues on an otherwise testosterone-replete judicial bench.
And even this small token of gender representation looks almost certain to be diluted in the near future... if the European Parliament carries on unfairly insisting that Malta stops trying to export its inherent male chauvinism to the rest of the EU, and nominate at least one woman for the post of judge on the European Court of Human Rights.
Oh, jolly good, Europe: how very clever of you to deny us our only female judge, just to secure a little gender equality where it already manifestly exists. And what, might I enquire, about gender equality in the Maltese courts? Do the Great European Powers have nothing to say about the undeniable fact that the entire administration of Criminal, Civil and Commercial Law in our country remains the last bastion of international male domination after the French Foreign Legion?
Ah, I hear you all object. But what about public opinion? Surely a man who gets away with murdering his wife, would eventually face some form of social repercussions: for instance, ostracism, or possibly even a Midalja Gieh ir-Repubblika...?
Well, judging by popular reactions to the news of the week so far, I would say much depends on whether any cute little puppies got themselves dumped in a skip at roughly the same time. If this happens, the great likelihood is that public opinion will be so enraged about the plight of the poor little pups (and rightly so, I hasten to add: after all, who on earth cares about women being brutally stabbed to death, when there are adorable little puppy-dawgs which need a loving home?) that the matter will not even elicit a passing remark.
All things told, then... I’m so glad I live in a country of solid Christian principles, where our national priorities are exactly the way the Good Lord always intended them to be.
You know, a single nation before God, where human life is only valued for the first nine months of its existence, only to be promptly rendered worthless by the process of childbirth. And where the Moral Authorities come down with great vengeance and furious anger on any issue they don’t immediately understand... banning plays because they don’t like them, or artistic installations because they offend political sentiment; or having people arrested for the grave crime dressing up like Jesus Christ, or failing to admire Renzo Piano’s magic roofless theatre... while all along patting ourselves on the back for being so very holy that we do not even permit divorce.
So it is, and so it shall be, now and forever... A-men.