Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Putting an expiry date on marriage?

Sounds absurd right? Yet this proposal has been made not abroad but here in the Philippines and by a women's rights group no less. At least they claim to be for women, though I'm not sure what sane woman would vote for a party list group with such an unstylish name as "1-Ako Babaeng Astig Aasenso (1-ABAA)". Now I imagine while it sounds absurd to me, some people actually agrees with this idea. So I tried to objectively examine its merits before I dismiss it for the publicity stunt that this obviously is (but do you really doubt that this is in fact a publicity stunt? Their name alone suggest that they prioritize being listed near the top of the Party List group listing more than having a good name.)

Let's examine the statements from Margie Tajon, the president of the group (taken from this article from the Philippine Star):
"By putting a prescription period on the marriage license, the couple will be spared from the legal process that is clogging our courts of law"

“A marriage license should be just like a passport or driver’s license. If we are not interested to renew it, then it expires”

“We are tough women, we will fight for our right to be free from the bondage of marriage”

These are rather silly statements, obviously made for their shock value more than their legislative merits. First of all, the marriage license has nothing to do with the marriage itself. It is a requirement for getting married sure, but not for maintaining it. It's not like a passport or a driver's license where you need to periodically show that you are eligible to leave port or drive a vehicle. You only need a marriage license to show that you are in fact properly informed entering it and are in some cases waived. And there is in fact a prescription period for that particular license, it is valid for 120 days upon approval to get married anywhere in the Philippines.

I suppose I'm being technical here, I'm sure she means the marriage contract itself rather than the license, and I suppose most people would understand her statement for what it is. But it sure is difficult to take seriously someone who can't get her terms right.

And what's with the tough woman talk? Free from the bondage of marriage? And who agreed to that marriage in the first place? And I imagine this might sound sexist, but aren't women generally the ones who insists on "the security" of marriage in the first place?

I give her this though, I think it makes sense to allow parties to leave a marriage that's clearly not working. I for one grew up in a broken home, and while I wanted my parents to stay together then, I can see how it really couldn't have worked for them. They were lucky enough to take advantage of a legal loophole and was able to get their marriage annulled (I'm not privy to the details, and I'm not sufficiently knowledgable with marriage laws to make a smart assumption as to which), but I can see how difficult it is for most couples whose marriage have failed and want out. Annulments are expensive and can take forever. And really, the whole idea of the marriage never being valid in the first place is a joke. Having said all this, I still don't think that this does the trick though.

Sure this eliminates the need to go through the expensive and lengthy legal process to terminate marriage, but how about the added costs to continue it? While there are many marriages getting annulled, most would want to stay married, why should their rights be compromised? And 10 years? Surely 10 years is too short for one who's committed to a real marriage--kids are just entering school age at this point and hard times are sure to come up. And 10 years is certainly too long to endure an abusive relationship. And what prevents the abusive partner from threathening the other party or their loved ones harm if they allow the marriage to lapse?

Divorce is obviously the better option. If we take morality out of the picture, it is easy to see why this is the logical alternative. Marriage regardless of your initial motivation, if entered willingly like any contract, can't be voided by mere disatisfaction unless otherwise stipulated under the said contract. You can mince words all you want, but annulment as it is currently practiced in the Philippines is divorce. So why not do it properly? Declaring the original marriage null is not doing it properly.

Obviously, an institution as important as marriage--essentially the building block of society--should not be entered into lightly, and should not be dissolved so easily. Hence a process should be in place to make sure that dissolving it is not made hastily. Proper counseling can be given, repercussions discussed, responsibility to their family properly aportioned, every reasonable steps to make sure that both are disolving their marriage willingly and sufficiently informed. I say reasonable, meaning only the bare necessities should be included, minimizing beaurocracy and thus the costs.

Does this mean I believe in divorce? Support it even? No. My Christian beliefs teaches me that marriage is a lifetime commitment. A burden one must bear when a burden it becomes. For that is what the vows of marriage entails. Yet believing this does not give me the right to impose those same beliefs to others. I think it was Isaac Asimov through his Foundation novel character Salvor Hardin who said, "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right". And what's right here is not to insist my morals on others, much less the legal system.

I don't see myself ever suggesting divorce, I probably would convince them otherwise, but does this mean they should not be allowed to? In the end, my answer is no. We are ultimately responsible for ourselves. This is why the law requires a certain age to enter this type of contract. This old saying have become trite with use but has nonetheless remained true: "Ang pagaasawa ay di parang mainit na kanin na iluluwa kapag napaso1." Yet just because I like my rice does not give me the right to insist that others enjoy theirs the same way.

1Entering marriage is not like eating steaming rice where you can spit it out when you find it too hot.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Sure, New Year is merely a symbolic change. December 31 of 2009 and January 1 of 2010 isn't really all that different, but it sure feels like it, doesn't it? What makes new years useful? I imagine it's the thought that we get a mulligan of some sort. Call it the reset button if you wish. However much you messed up last year, this year might just be different. And it can be too! Though a mere symbolic reset won't do it. You have to reflect and introspect. See what went wrong last year. Was it procrastination that got you like it did me? Or did you try to do too much too soon? Whatever it is, the only way it can be managed is if you realize what the problem is and take the necessary step to remedy it.

This year, my only resolution is to do things better and to explore doing things differently. I think this phrase says it succinctly:

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got, so if you want something you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done.

2010 looks like an adventure to me. Hope it is for all of you too! Happy new year and prepare for the roller coaster ride that 2010 promises to be! Hiyaa!!