Article 12: Right to Marry

“Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family”

Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights

1 March 2019 – 30 April 2020.

Supported by:
Small Initiatives Support Scheme (SIS)

Project Description

This SIS-funded project focuses on raising awareness and advocating for the right of persons who are in an irregular situation in Malta to marry.

(Ir)regular Love Campaign

(Ir)Regular Love Research Report

“… an irregular status does not prevent family and personal relationships developing and these cannot simply be disregarded when dealing with the persons concerned, not least because any action taken against them could have implications not only for the exercise of their rights and freedoms but also for those of the others involved in these relationships”


In our (Ir)Regular Love research report, we gathered the legal and policy regimes that regular the right to marry under international, European and Maltese Law. Included in this research, is the jurisprudence that has evolved from the European Courts of Human Rights in its interpretation of Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights and of the local courts in their interpretation of the rights protection under the Constitution, the Convention and the Marriage Act.

The report can be downloaded here.

Why this project?

A research strand will include desk research carried out by aditus of the laws and jurisprudence that guide on the right to marry. Part of the research would also involve consulting with experts in the field. The research results will be presented to the main stakeholders, including government ministers and public bodies and agencies.

The awareness raising campaign will aim to inform and engage civil society and the public in the discourse around the right to marry and form a family for persons who, although are in an irregular situation, found love and wish to consolidate their relationship.

Everyone who is old enough has the right to marry, no matter who they are or where they are from, this is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, the practical implementation of this right in Malta is found in different pieces of legislation, such as the Civil Code and the Marriage Act.

Throughout the years, legal developments have extended the scope of this right to include the legalisation of divorce and the possibility of re-marrying in 2011 and the Marriage Equality Act, which extended the right to marry to same-sex couples in 2017. However, it is not everyone who has access to this right and many migrants that do not have a Maltese residence permit still face a number of barriers when wishing to contract a marriage with their partners, be they Maltese or foreign, even though Maltese law does not require Maltese residency in order to marry.

Specifically, the group that is most effected by this are those migrants whose asylum claim has been rejected and who, for some reason or another, have not or cannot be returned to their country of origin and do not have a valid Maltese residence permit.

They face an absolute prohibition to contract marriage in Malta, even on the presentation of their birth certificates and free status certificates issued by their country of origin. However, we have also seen third-country nationals being denied the right to marry their Maltese or EU partners due to the expiration of their 90 day visa or problems of refugees with protection from another EU Member State trying to marry their Maltese partners in Malta.

Of course, this does not mean that they did not already create a family unit with their loved one, live together and have children. The prohibition to marry simply denies many people the right to establish a formal and legal relationship with their partners and consequently denying them the status and dignity of being ordinary citizens in society.

Follow our News & Updates or email to get to know more!

This project has been funded by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme (SIS) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS)