The Malta Independent 29 February 2024, Thursday
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Government says Malta’s first domestic violence hub to start operating shortly

Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 14:44 Last update: about 4 months ago

 

Government on Wednesday launched a new five-year national strategy against domestic violence, with Malta’s first domestic violence hub in Santa Lucija to start operating shortly this year.

Speaking during the launch of Malta’s third National Strategy on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence 2023-2028, Commissioner for Gender-Based and Domestic Violence Samantha Pace Gasan said that the aim is to break the cycle of violence, as research has shown that children raised in a domestic violence environment at home are more likely to become victims or perpetrators later in life. The strategy was drafted after consultation with stakeholders.

The action plan titled “Unite, Engage, Elevate,” includes four pillars: integrated policies; legal measures and data collection; prevention, protection and support; and prosecution.

Pace Gasan gave an overview of the strategy, explaining that the first pillar centered around policies to ensure that Maltese legislation truly safeguards victims of domestic and gender-based violence, and that it is implemented effectively.

She said that this pillar includes targeted measures for certain demographics such as making sure that victims who are migrants are not prevented from leaving abusive relationships in fear of being deported or losing their legal status.

The first pillar also sees to it that NGOs and several government agencies are well-equipped to provide victims with immediate support, including legal and psycho-social support.

The second pillar, aiming at prevention, focused on education and awareness-raising. Government aims to introduce campaigns which would be targeted at specific groups that included children at all levels of education, parents and caregivers, the elderly and migrants, to educate on domestic and gender-based violence.

Government also said it plans to strengthen programmes for domestic and gender-based violence perpetrators to reduce recidivism, while the media and private sector would be included to address gender stereotypes and cultural norms which are discriminatory.

The strategy’s third pillar focuses on victims’ protection and support, with government to evaluate current legal practices and to what extent they are effective in protecting victims and children.

Electronic tagging and panic buttons are also planned to be introduced to strengthen victims’ safety, government said, along with the plan to study the implementation of a centralised system which records bail conditions, protection orders, restraining orders and temporary protection orders.

This will ensure that violations are registered and sanctions are imposed immediately, the document on the strategy read.

The strategy’s fourth pillar focuses on prosecution, where its first measure aims to equip the police with the necessary knowledge and power to respond as quickly as possible to all forms of domestic and gender-based violence. 

Government also aims to examine and minimise barriers to reports concerning victims in Gozo in a measure which addresses reducing the risk of secondary victimisation of victims.

The pillar aims to ensure that all forms of domestic and gender-based violence, which includes psychological and economic violence, are prosecuted effectively, and that victims are provided with specially-trained lawyers to act as legal counsel.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri also said that the first domestic violence hub will start operating soon in Santa Lucia, which was specifically built to cater to victims of domestic violence, as part of government’s efforts to make sure that victims are protected as needed.

Camilleri continued that the tender for electronic tagging is in its final stages, and government will present an amendment in Parliament to ensure that victims of domestic and gender-based violence can benefit from its services. Camilleri said that panic buttons are also set to be introduced shortly.

Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms Rebecca Buttigieg said that government’s efforts are prioritising strengthening the resources needed to tackle domestic and gender-based violence.

Pace Gasan said that the strategy is based on the four pillars of the Istanbul Convention, with a “holistic approach” which leaves no one behind, saying that even front-liners working with domestic violence victims should also be given enhanced psychological support.

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s wife Lydia Abela, who is spearheading a 16-day activism drive to raise awareness on domestic violence, also spoke at the launch, mentioning the murder of Bernice Cassar and other instances of domestic violence which depicted the reality of domestic and gender-based violence in Malta.

 

Abela said that the strategy is important only if it does not remain on paper, and spoke about the commitment to implement changes to better protect victims. She also encouraged more victims and loved ones to speak up about their experiences.

 

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