The Malta Independent 4 October 2022, Tuesday
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The last 12 months as a woman in Malta

Alice Taylor Sunday, 11 March 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

I sit writing this on 8 March, otherwise known as International Women’s Day, and I am reflecting on the last 12 months and what sort of year it has been for women. Unfortunately, the answer is not a great one.

In 2017 alone, the police received over 1000 reports of domestic violence against women and, of course, we must consider the fact that it is estimated that around 25 per cent of victims never report their assaults which means that the real number is much higher. Of course, this also does not take into account the instances of sexual harassment, verbal harassment and online abuse to which women are subjected all too regularly – both here and abroad.

A survey requested by the European Commission and published in the last quarter of 2017 brought to light some horrifying statistics relating to Malta such as the fact that 47 per cent of Maltese believe that “women make up or exaggerate claims of rape and abuse” and 40 per cent believe that violence against women is provoked by the victim themselves. Furthermore, the report found that a staggering 36 per cent of respondents believed that at least one situation justifies making a woman have sex against her will. Sadly, these findings do not surprise me in the slightest as one only has to take a look at comments on news items and in groups such as The Salott to see that misogyny and backward thinking are truly alive and kicking in many facets of society.

Let us cast aside the gender pay gap, the lack of women in C-level positions and politics, and of course the fact that a corpse has more body autonomy than a woman living in Malta, and let’s take a look at some of the stories in the last 12 months that serve as harsh reminders of just how far this country, and “the most feminist government ever” has to go.

While Joseph Muscat and his cronies were shouting from the rooftops how progressive and equal Malta is, a female journalist, who was a mother of three was brutally assassinated, and up to the time of writing, we are no closer to finding out with whom the ultimate responsibility lies. 2017 was also a year that saw a woman in Zabbar having her request for protection against a man who tried to set her on fire, dismissed and laughed at by the local police. It was also a year when David Thake and Tony Zarb made public comments that compared women to prostitutes and while there was a public outcry at such comments, nothing was done. Roberta Metsola received threats against her life on multiple occasions, and activist Sara Ezabe was told by a court that the xenophobic comments made against her did not qualify as hate crimes when they clearly did.

2017 saw the roll out of the sale of the morning-after pill in pharmacies across the country, yet there are still a large number who refuse to sell it based on the belief that it goes against their ethics – of course, foregoing the duty of care they should have towards their customers. We also saw the publication of an article on a leading business website that totally ignored the accomplishments of women entrepreneurs, and instead listed a group which was made up exclusively of middle-aged men. A study by the University of Malta showed conclusively that women were afraid to report their partner’s violence to the police for fear of being ignored and a general lack of trust in the police and justice system. This was reflected in the growing number of suspended sentences and dismissed cases for instances of violence and sexual assault against women.

Government MP and obnoxious Labour Party mouthpiece Glenn Bedingfield took to his blog to criticise the Executive President of the PN for, heaven forbid, the smallest bit of underarm stubble; “…the one who ought to tone down her lipstick tones, let alone flashing her unshaven armpits! How incredibly chic.” A recently promoted police officer was defended by a Member of Parliament for head-butting his wife, because he “works long hours”. Let us also not forget the woman that was kidnapped by her husband and then imprisoned, raped, and beaten for three days only to have her attacker released on bail on Friday against some flimsy guarantees.

What about the vile comments directed to the mother of a nine-year-old trans girl – one of the politer ones being that the mother had “brainwashed” her child? What about Labour MP Joe Debono Grech threatening to beat up Dr Marlene Farrugia, in a parliamentary sitting? What about the local paedophiles that were let off with suspended sentences? What about the fact that whilst each individual pays their own tax, the Inland Revenue pays our refunds to our husbands? What about a report from the US State Department, imploring Malta to “vigorously investigate and prosecute” human trafficking offenders because their utter failure to hold these individuals accountable is creating a knock-on catastrophe in other countries? In addition, let us not forget the number of “massage parlour” review groups on Facebook full of married men, local council members, and even members of parliament – if you do not believe me, go and have a look for yourself.

This is on top of us being called whores, bitches, “da sistas”, militant feminists, whiners, baby murderers, sluts, harlots, and a disgrace to femininity on a daily basis when we dare to vocalise our views. We are one of the few countries in the world where we have no right to decide what happens to our body, even at the cost of our own lives and this is on top of having every part of our femininity explained to us by condescending and ignorant failed politicians, salesmen, and IT consultants. Women who suffer miscarriages are investigated by the police, and militant misogynists call for women to undergo pregnancy checks before travelling and when returning, to the country, with some calling for pregnant women to have their passports confiscated for the duration of their pregnancy. PN now has a member responsible for the “Rights of the Unborn”. What about a Minister for equality? A Ministry for human rights? No, we have a specialist department dedicated to what is essentially, a clump of unviable cells.

Women in this country are seen as nothing more than walking incubators, wives, and vaginas and this attitude comes from not just men, but women as well. The amount of atrocious and judgemental comments I have seen women pass on other women’s appearance, life choices, and careers is utterly staggering. The doubting of rape victims and telling women they are not “real women” because they are pro-choice or dismissing others because they are childless and therefore unworthy, make me sick.

There is more need than ever for International Women’s Day because in my mind, and in the mind of many other women, this country is going backwards rather than forward in terms of human and women’s rights. However, I can feel the winds of change – women are becoming more open in their mind-sets, they are becoming stronger and more vocal, and the fear to go against the grain or the status quo is diminishing.

Malta is producing so many strong and powerful women that are making a difference on a local and international level and it inspires and encourages me every day. To these women and to the women that are scared to stand up for their beliefs and opinions, I say ignore the bitter, twisted, prejudiced and ignorant in society that try to put you down, and instead use their negativity to motivate you to continue on your path.

Let us make the next 12 months a better year for women, equality, tolerance, and respect.

 

 

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