The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Women’s Lobby says not enough being done to give protection to domestic violence victims

Saturday, 9 December 2023, 13:43 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Malta Women’s Lobby reiterated its stand Saturday that the authorities are simply not doing enough to ensure that victims of domestic violence are being given adequate protection and timely justice.

The lobby issued a statement at the end of 16 days of activism held against domestic abuse on the first anniversary of the murder of Bernice Cassar (Cilia).

Despite recommendations of the inquiry into Cilia’s murder, there is still a big backlog in cases, with victims having to wait over a year until their aggressor is summoned in court. With a backlog of 2283 cases,  evidently the appointment of a second magistrate to deal with such cases is not enough.  What is worse, it has also come to light through the same article*, that the second Magistrate appointed by the Justice Ministry to support the domestic violence caseload, that previously fell solely on Magistrate Lanfranco, is, since September, no longer dealing with domestic violence cases. This suggests that the appointment of a second magistrate was just lip service, and there was never any serious intention of rectifying the caseload situation.

It’s all well and good for the government to launch a national strategy on gender-based violence (GBV) and domestic violence (DV), however, we ask the authorities to bear with us if we’re not quite applauding and clutching our pearls at this news. What’s the point of publishing nicely worded policies if their implementation remains questionable? In normal countries when governments issue a  strategy of this importance, it normally starts from  a well-defined budget  to ensure that the plan can be executed effectively without financial constraints.

Phrases like “sufficiently safeguards victims of domestic and gender-based violence”, promises that measures will be “implemented effectively”, and ensuring that crimes are “prosecuted effectively”, mean nothing until real progress can be tangibly seen to be taking place and someone is held accountable when it’s not materialising, the lobby said.

We’ve had it up to our eyeballs with fancy talk and flashy press conferences that, ultimately, have no real and timely impact on the ones who need it most. So much for “strengthening the resources needed to tackle domestic and gender-based violence is at the forefront of government’s priorities”. Concrete and timely action is what this country needs.

It was also announced that electronic tagging and panic buttons will be introduced, in cases where a person has a protection order issued in their favour  with the objective of strengthening the victims’ safety and granting them greater protection. This development was first mentioned over 10 years ago. Let’s hope that we won’t have to wait for another 10 years for its implementation.  We stress that it is the duty of the state to protect the victim and the onus should not be put on the victim to request the electronic tagging of the perpetrator. 

The MWL would also like to highlight that gender-based violence affects women and girls disproportionally  which is why we demand that the term Violence Against Women (VAW) becomes part of the government’s narrative as well as included in any proposed legislation.

Finally, the MWL would like to applaud and salute the indefatigable NGOs who have been demanding progress for years and years. Civil society should not have to demand the most basic of measures from the authorities but should use their expertise and their energy on fine-tuning a system that is in place and working efficiently.

It is beyond disheartening and exhausting to note that the authorities are more interested in holding slick press events to state what they intend to do, yet hardly ever follow up with concrete and significant action.

Violence Against Women is a dark stain on our society, and we demand immediate and adequate protection, as well as justice for all victims of this crime, the lobby said.

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