Prime Minister Joseph Muscat boldly stated that while Malta has laws and policies in place to promote equality, the reality is that equality between men and women does not yet exist.
Muscat, speaking at a Labour Party conference in Pieta, in the week where the world celebrated International Women’s Day, revealed how in Malta’s entire Parliamentary history, only 27 women have been elected as Members of Parliament.
“In the entire history of Malta’s elections, ever since we have started voting to elect men and women to parliament, a total of 27 women have been elected”.
Technically, he said, the number is 26 as there was one woman who was appointed to Speaker of the House.
Zero retired female judges and magistrates in Malta’s judiciary
Muscat went on to highlight how in Malta’s entire judicial history, there is not one retired female judge or magistrate.During Malta’s entire judicial history, be it under colonial rule, as an Independent Malta and Malta as a republic, there is not one retired female judge or magistrate. “This shows what an unequal country we live in,” Muscat said.
Currently more than half of Malta’s judiciary are women, however the trend is recent enough that all are still serving members of the bench. He said the government has tried to improve the situation with action rather than rhetoric. A total of 57% of nominations by the government to the judiciary have been women.
Women in the Civil Service
Moving on to the role of women in the civil service, Muscat quoted further statistics to illustrate the gender imbalance. When entering into office, he said that 31% of women were directors within the civil service, now that figure has increased to 39%.
In addition, whereas 31% of women occupied assistant director positions, now a proportion of half do so.
Using the word quotas was a ‘mistake’
Muscat shed light on government thinking by conceding that the use of the word ‘quota’ to describe measures aimed at increasing female participation as Members of Parliament was a mistake. He said the connotation with the word quota is that women would be taking the place and opportunities of men. Muscat called for the use of ‘temporary positive measures’ instead, stressing that these measures would create more room for women to occupy, rather than limit other groups in any way.
He announced the launch of a public consultation in the coming weeks in order to discuss the measures being contemplated. Some of these measures would require constitutional reform, necessitating cooperation by the Nationalist Party. “This is a big responsibility on their part,” Muscat said.
He cited how despite the massive leap in women entering the workforce over the past six years, the gender pay gap is growing and this must be tackled.
Muscat’s speech also included praise of the Cabinet’s nomination and Opposition’s agreement to appoint Dr George Vella as President of Malta, he announced next October’s budget will have another increase for pensioners thanks to the growing economy and reiterated calls for Malta to be at the forefront in take-up of electric vehicles.