The Malta Independent 30 March 2023, Thursday
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Legal amendments aim to push courts to give maximum penalty for femicide - ministers

Sabrina Zammit Wednesday, 2 February 2022, 17:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

The court will give the maximum penalties for the crime of femicide, if circumstances are satisfied, Minister for Justice Edward Zammit Lewis said on Wednesday.

He addressed a press conference, together with reforms minister Owen Bonnici, on legal amendments to introduce femicide as a concept into Maltese law.

Answering questions by the Malta Independent, the minister said that such circumstances will not exclude any gender as these circumstances are not exclusive to cases concerning woman.


The bill will also remove the defence of crimes of passion in cases of femicide, as the killing of a woman is not acceptable, said the minister for justice.

"Today marks a month since Paulina Dembska's murder, it reflects the feeling of society across the board; what happened is not acceptable," he said.

The amendments proposed, together with the historic introduction of the concept of femicide, were tabled in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Although the introduction of femicide does not create a seperate crime, it caters for the reality in Malta where women are killed based on their gender. By definition femicide is the killing of women or girls based on hatred towards the their gender.

The Bill itself refers to what is known as the crime of passion, often used as a defence in the murder of a woman in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. According to the change, if femicidal circumstances are satisfied, such defence will no longer be accepted.

On intent, the bill states that it will not only be considered in instances before or after the crime, but will also be considered if there is an attempt to commit a femicide.

Zammit Lewis added that there was no change of heart from the government's side in the introduction of femicide as it coincides with what he was already said, that there have to be legal amendments that make sense. The bill will tie the courts' hands so that it will try and go for the maximum penalty.

On 11 January, the minister had said that making femicide a criminal offence is "pointless," because the crime of voluntary homicide already carries the highest possible punishment - life imprisonment.

“Voluntary manslaughter is the highest punishment we have in the law, we have proposed emendmends that under the circumstances of femicide we reserve the discretion of the court to go to the maximum penalty to send a clear message, firstly that they should have a harsher punishment, and secondly you cannot make a defense based on sudden passion.

Minister Bonnici said this is an important step to acknowledge and, above all address a social issue that has been left under the carpet for many years.

For the first time ever, Malta will be formally recognising the concept of femicide. He said the proposed Bill was drafted after the government listened to people’s anger and concerns.

This is only one out of many steps that need to be taken, he added.

The ratification of the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence has already brought drastic changes to the law and the proposed Bill continues to build on those efforts, he said.

Bonnici said statistics show that violence against women remains prevalent in Maltese society. We need to respond in a focused and direct manner by declaring femicide as a distinct legal concept, he said.

Bonnici said misogyny cannot be tolerated, adding that the country has to unite so that Malta truly becomes a land of full equality between men and women.

The government will also continue working on education and prevention, Bonnici said.

Cyprus is the only country that has currently presented proposals for the introduction of femicide into their laws, yet the bill is currently stuck in the debate process.

Women’s Rights Foundation President Lara Dimitrijevic said that this Bill is a step in efforts to what she described as “eradicating a pandemic”, as the killing of women has become something normal for Malta.


Video: Giuseppe Attard



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