The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Domestic violence bill approved, PN MP Edwin Vassallo only one to vote against

Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 19:27 Last update: about 3 years ago

Parliament passed the bill against gender based violence and domestic violence through to committee stage, after a vote during the second reading was taken today.

PN MP Edwin Vassallo, however, voted against the bill. While stressing that he is against any form of violence, he mentioned that he had certain moral issues with parts of the bill relating to the transposition of the Istanbul Convention, and the definition of the word 'gender'.

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Vassallo argued that government did not amend part of the Istanbul Convention when implementing it in the bill, which deals with the prohibition of forced abortion, stating that government did not specify that it was against all forms of abortion and as such could open a window. PN MP Edwin Vassallo urged government to show that abortion is not on the table, and leave no room for interpretation.

He said that he had problems with certain definitions in the bill. He said that he can never accept the logic that gender equality -" instead of being built on respect for diversity as established by natural law - can now according to the logic under this law, be achieved with everyone being the same. Legally considering everyone the same does not result in equality, but rather in uniformity." This logic, he said, makes the state as supreme when it comes to dictating gender, "so much so that gender shall mean (under this bill) the 'socially constructed roles'."

He said that this law continues where the same sex marriage bill left off, where that law had removed the words mother and father.  He made a number of other objections. Vassallo said that he had spoken with Party Leader Adrian Delia about his decision to vote against.

In her closing statements, Equality Minister Helena Dalli highlighted that Parliament was divided on the bill which aimed to protect victims of domestic and gender based violence.

She said that there is a national consensus against violence, but cannot say that Parliament is united against violence. Robert Cutajar objected, and said the Opposition is unanimously against any form of violence. Edwin Vassallo stood up and said that while voting against, he is against domestic violence. Dalli defended her position and said that Parliament cannot say it is united behind this bill.

Dalli argued that the bill has nothing to do with abortion. She said that abortion is illegal, and that this law will not bring in any form of abortion. She said that whoever says otherwise is creating alarm and lying.

She said that the bill uses gender neutral language to ensure that LGBTIQ persons were protected by its provisions.

PN MP Karl Gouder mentioned, during the debate, said that he cannot understand why the term 'unborn child' was removed from the list of domestic violence victims, and urged government to include that term in the new law, as it is present in the current law.

PD MP Godfrey Farrugia also brought up the unborn child issue, urging government to leave the unborn child as a member of the family, as per the definition in current law.

He also put forward a proposal to include the following clause in the bill relating to those found guilty of rape: "From the moment the child was conceived as a result of rape, the perpetrator would lose parental authority, custody and any contact with the child if termination of the parent-child relationship would be in the best interest of the child. This does not in any way entail the elimination of the responsibility of the perpetrator to provide maintenance to the child and of the right of the child to be the eventual heir, except where the mother (when the child is a minor) or the child (when s/he comes of majority age) object to these rights."

The Bill will now head to Committee stage.


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