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.


Lizz said...

Jeez, that's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Forget the expiry date, just legalize divorce and be done with it!

Visual Velocity said...

I say give the people the right to choose. Viva divorce! :)

darkjedi said...

Your analogy of morals and how you enjoy rice bothers me a bit.

By morals, you are talking about right and wrong, good and bad. I don't think it should be a matter of taste.

Yes, people disagree and it is culturally based but if you believe what you believe then for you it is an absolute, universal truth and you believe those who disagree with you and do otherwise are doing wrong.

My morals dictate that it is wrong to allow others to do wrong. Of course, in real life, I'm powerless to do anything about it.

philos said...

@Lizz: Like I said, it's a publicity stunt.

@Andy: The sad thing about this is, nobody gives the kids a choice.

@DarkJedi: My morals and your morals don't necessarily coincide. If it did, then we won't have problems of injustice in the world, everyone would agree right away that this in fact is just, or that is not.

Just because I believe something does not mean the whole world has to too. And really, how often do you go around disallowing people from doing wrong?

darkjedi said...

@philos: i did say that people disagree and that in real life, we're mostly powerless to stop people from doing wrong.

But what i'm saying is that if you really believe you are right, then it ought to make you want everyone to realize and follow this as well.
It seems you are just being a realist and accepting that you can't do this.

Nevertheless, you did make an effort in your reply to Andy's comment :)

From the John Lennon song Imagine:
"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one."

Josh said...

@darkjedi: When it comes to esoteric beliefs, persuasion is okay, but coercion is not. Even if you have the best of intentions, advocating the use of the legal system to force other people to follow your moral system is clearly coercion. I think Philos is correct in rejecting that.

darkjedi said...

@josh: My stand on coercion is this: People often make the wrong choices. Sometimes it is necessary to take their freedom away for their own good and the good of society.

Josh said...

@darkjedi: Who gets to decide what's wrong and what's right? Assuming that there's such thing as a moral absolute (I don't believe that by the way), there's still no way to guarantee that your moral position is the correct one. How then can you advocate laws to take people's freedom away for their own good when there's the possibility that you're the one who's wrong?

Laws should be for protecting people from each other and not from themselves.

darkjedi said...

@josh: There will always be a struggle to determine who has the power. We can only hope that whoever has it at the moment has morals that coincide with our own.

But taking the perspective of the one who believes in something, and is possibly in power... if it was me, I would be greatly bothered if I was allowing others to go against something I believe in. And if I truly believe in it, thinking that it could possibly be wrong is the last thing on my mind.

Also, there are a lot of moral issues governing interpersonal dealings. Divorce is an example. As for personal matters, I believe no man is an island. Things you decide for yourself can affect those around you.

For divorce, I think a good approach would be to conduct an in-depth quantitative study of its impact to each individual and to society in aggregate. Then we can take it out of the realm of morality and into the realm of practicality.

Anonymous said...

i've thought about this before when my aunt renewed her vows. i though marriages should have an expiry date and what do you know it's a bill! LOL but it wouldn't go anywhere for sure, this is RP right?