In its first baseline evaluation report published today on implementation by Malta of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the “Istanbul Convention”, the Group of Experts (GREVIO) emphasises a number of positive legal and policy measures that have been taken by the authorities, which demonstrate firm resolve to stem violence against women.
With the adoption of “Society’s Concern, Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence Strategy and Action Plan” (the strategy and action plan) Malta has broadened its policies to address other forms of violence against women, beyond domestic violence. With the entry into force of the Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence Act, the former Commission on Domestic Violence has been transformed into a Commission on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence (CGBVD) and its mandate has been strengthened and widened. The CGBVDV is praised in the report for being a fully institutionalised entity with legal personality and dedicated financial and human resources, as well as for having a diverse membership. A number of laws have also been amended to bring them in line with the convention.
The report also notes the authorities’ efforts to run an increasing number of awareness raising campaigns since the entry into force of the convention and the important steps taken towards the implementation of its Article 14 in the area of education. Teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, sexual education, and to a certain extent, domestic violence are, in fact, included in the mandatory national curriculum starting primary school.
Nevertheless, GREVIO has observed several issues where urgent improvement is warranted to reach higher levels of compliance with the requirements of the convention. While, in principle, Malta has broadened its policies to address other forms of violence against women beyond domestic violence, on the side of implementation the strategy and action plan fail to provide for specific integrated measures to tackle harmful forms of violence against women other than domestic violence. Moreover, Malta has adopted a gender-neutral approach to violence against women.
Throughout the strategy and in legislation, the authorities have opted to employ the term gender-based violence instead of violence against women to ensure that all experiences of violence in intimate relationships, including that experienced by men and boys (including GBTIQ) are addressed. The report welcomes the will to address all experiences of violence in intimate relationships but stresses that it is of paramount importance that the different forms of violence against women are addressed as a gendered phenomenon because they affect women disproportionately. These forms of violence are directed against a woman because she is a woman and thus need to be understood as a social mechanism to keep women in a subordinate position to men.