Thursday, 25th November is the day on which more effort is made across the world to raise awareness about gender-based violence. Women make up the majority of victims of gender-based violence. Violence against women is not restricted to domestic violence; nor is it only about physical violence. Violence against women can be physical, sexual, social, moral, psychological, economic, political, religious, you name it, women have been subjected to it.
The most extreme form of violence is experienced by women who are murdered by men. Since 2010, Malta has witnessed the murder of 16 women of all ages and coming from different social backgrounds, whose life was wasted by male aggressors. This phenomenon of violence on women has a negative impact not just on its direct victims but on women in general.
Women, including trans women, can never feel safe when walking in the streets, at work or even at home as they continue to be sexually harassed, raped, stalked, killed or are the subject of revenge porn or cyberbullying.
A Lovin Malta article a month ago (28th October) reported that in a parliamentary question, Minister Chris Fearne stated that in 2019 and 2020 there was a total of 136 victims of domestic violence who went to the emergency department at Mater Dei for treatment after being abused. According to the CrimeMalta Observatory Annual Crime Review 2020, domestic violence increased by 24% from 2019.
Confined to their home, often in close proximity with their aggressors, during 2020 victims of domestic violence experienced violence in an unprecedented way. The same report claims that there was a 14% decline in sexual offences in 2020.
However, one needs to keep in mind that 2020 was a very particular year where social activity was restricted, perhaps presenting less opportunity for such abuse. In fact, sexual offences had been on the increase for the previous 5 years prior to 2020.
Gender-based violence as a crime category was specifically introduced in Malta in 2020 and there were two registered cases in this category, possibly due to its novelty. One also needs to keep in mind that such crimes tend to be underreported for various reasons including fear of the aggressor.
The CrimeMalta Observatory Annual Crime Review 2020 claims that Malta is a relatively safe place compared to other European countries in terms of cases of rape, sexual assault and other offences as well as homicide. However, this is no consolation to women who only deserve to live in a society that embraces gender equality and social justice rather than one which continues to reproduce cultural gender stereotypes in various areas of society such as the media, politics, the family and education.
This does not exclude the legal system where women facing their aggressors or sexual harassers have to relive their trauma in front of lawyers, judges and police officers who may not be so sensitive to such issues and who may themselves be influenced by cultural prejudice, to the detriment of women. We will only feel safe when cases of violence and abuse become a thing of the past, rather than simply being less frequent than in other countries.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, many countries participate in the 16 Days of Activism campaign against Gender-Based Violence which starts on the 25th November and ends on the 10th December, Human Rights Day. Moviment Graffitti has been campaigning against all forms of violence for many years. This year is no different. We will continue to raise our voices against this social scourge grounded in the dominant patriarchal culture until women are treated as human beings deserving love, dignity and respect.
On Thursday 25th November we are meeting in front of the Law Courts in Valletta for a demonstration – No Excuse for Violence and Abuse – at 5.30 p.m. On the occasion, we will remember the 16 women who were murdered by former partners or members of their own family in Malta over the past 11 years. This is being organised in conjunction with other NGOs and we will be addressing the press. Those who attend are invited to wear something orange, black, red or purple, the colours that are symbolic of international campaigns against violence on women.
On Friday 26th November, Moviment Graffitti is organising an Open Mic with the theme – There’s Power in her Words – at Maori Bar in Valletta, starting at 8.00pm. For this event, we are inviting women to come and share with us their writing or that of others, songs, poetry, experiences related to violence and other issues still faced by women in 2021. Women may use any language they wish. The event is open to the public.
Dr Angele Deguara is a sociologist and a member of Moviment Graffitti
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What can Malta do to stop violence against women?