The Malta Independent 21 May 2022, Saturday

Women’s Lobby disappointed that police continue to 'negate the obvious' in Dembska case

Monday, 17 January 2022, 13:50 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Malta Women’s Lobby has expressed its “utter disappointment that the police and society are continuing to try and negate the obvious in the case of Paulina Dembska.”

Dembska was found dead in Independence Garden in Sliema at around 6:20 am on 2 January. The suspect, 20-year-old Abner Aquilina was arrested a short while later after he entered the Balluta church and caused a commotion. He has since been charged and pleaded not guilty in court.

The Malta Police Force had said that Paulina Dembska’s murder was not pre-meditated and she was not targeted because of who she was or because of her gender. It was recently reported that Abner Aquilina tried to attack two men shortly before the violent rape and murder of Paulina Dembska.

In a statement, the Malta Women’s Lobby said: “The fact that the accused attacked two men before he went on to allegedly kill and rape the victim does not detract from the fact that he did so because she was a woman.”

Whilst Femicide is often associated with intimate partner violence, it extends beyond the household, the lobby said. “Femicide is about men’s power and control over women. It is but the final step in a continuum of violence against women and girls, in a context where this sort of violence has been normalised and impunity too often prevails. “

“When insisting that it was not a case of Femicide, the police are closing their eyes to the systemic gendered patterns that lead to Femicide.”

“It is men who jeer and grope women, men who follow and harass them, men who assault them and instil fear, men who rape them, and it is men who generally kill women. It is not the other way round, and the numbers are clear, although we are not implying that all men do so.”  

“Before a woman is killed, there is a high level of tolerance to all this behaviour and women are rarely acknowledged or taken seriously by the police and society at large. Therefore, claiming that in this case, two men were attacked before the victim was violently killed, does not change the gendered context in which this killing materialised,” the lobby said.

“Trying to negate this in the case of Paulina Dembska is tantamount to annihilating women’s reality of their everyday experience.”

“It is time to change the Maltese Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence Act and bring the definition in line with the Istanbul Convention. Furthermore, the law should change to ensure that Femicide is recognised as an aggravating factor to homicide. Then there would be no reason on the part of the police to downplay this gendered crime.”

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