In a political climate well-known for its hostile exchanges and polarised nature, there is one debate that arguably showcases Malta’s fierce divisiveness the best: abortion.
But, in less than a minute and a half, this short and powerful film endorsed by Women’s Rights Foundation and Voice for Choice could make you rethink Malta’s most charged taboo debate.
Malta is one of the last countries on earth with a total ban on abortion.
Today is International Women’s Day – the single calendar day where we dutifully celebrate the progress made in women’s rights globally.
In Malta, this means proud government speeches on their commitment to gender equality, corporate displays of virtue signalling and perhaps, free drinks for ladies night.
We must also remember the resilient women that paved the way in which we march – women’s rights activists, our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends.
But in Malta, our moment of celebration cannot be done without a hint of bitter irony, and this short film captures just that.
How can we applaud ourselves for progress in gender equality when women are still denied their basic right of bodily autonomy?
“Malta needs to wake up to the fact that this issue won’t disappear just because people aren’t talking about it. As the film says, ‘banning abortions doesn’t prevent them, it only makes them unsafe,” said the filmmaker behind the video, Kate McMullen.
Produced for the Women’s Rights Foundation and Voice for Choice, the film explores sharply contrasting experiences, all simultaneously recognisable as intrinsically Maltese.
“There is nothing “unMaltese” about wanting to change the laws on abortion in Malta. The girl in this film is proud of her country. But Malta’s legislation on abortion lets her down,” McMullen said.
The video is narrated by a Maltese woman who wishes to remain anonymous.
Last year, Malta’s recently formed pro-choice coalition held their first rally in favour of the legalisation of abortion. Like many activists in Malta, local pro-choice activists are not strangers to the local culture of hate speech.
“It seems to be accepted in Malta that if you engage with abortion rights and are openly pro-choice, you can expect death threats and rape threats. This is the 21st century! Thankfully the women’s rights campaigners in Malta are brave and tenacious,” McMullen continued.
Today, several pro-choice organisations will participate in a march for Women’s Day. You can find details about the event here.