Malta’s rape laws are set for a major overhaul, with the legal definition of rape set to be tied to the concept of consent and extended to include more forms of unwanted sexual assault.
The current law defines rape as “carnal knowledge (ie. sexual intercourse) achieved through violence”. However, the Gender-Based Violence And Domestic Violence Bill proposes its definition be extended to include “nonconsensual…vaginal, anal or oral penetration of a sexual nature of the body of another person with any bodily part, and or, any object.”
The Bill also proposes higher jail terms for convicted rapists – up from the current minimum of three years and maximum of six to a minimum of six years and a maximum of twelve, unless aggravated.
The law is being spearheaded by civil liberties minister Helena Dalli
The original version of the Bill had proposed extending the maximum jail term for rapists to twenty years, but a government spokesperson said this was watered down because it would have legally forced victims to go to the traumatic process of having their case debated by a jury.
The Bill, which will see Malta get in line with the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, was first launched by civil liberties minister Helena Dalli last year, but will finally be discussed in Parliament tonight.
Other than an overhaul of rape laws, the Bill will also allow courts to force perpetrators of domestic violence out of their family homes and charge them with moral damages for the damage they would have caused their victims. The courts will also be empowered to deny domestic violence perpetrators custody of their children in separation and divorce cases.
Another interesting concept which the Bill is introducing is the ‘Letter of Victims’ Rights’, which the police will have to provide to victims of domestic violence as soon as they file a report.