‘Women’s Day – we are not yet where we should be’

The consensus is clear: on today’s International Women’s Day, Maltese society is far from achieving gender equality

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
8 March 2017, 12:31pm
A serious challenge is in the unequal division of time women and men spend on care, domestic tasks and social activities, with women spending increasingly more time on care activities and little on leisure, sporting or voluntary activities.
A serious challenge is in the unequal division of time women and men spend on care, domestic tasks and social activities, with women spending increasingly more time on care activities and little on leisure, sporting or voluntary activities.
Malta’s primary strength in gender equality, the Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, lies in the health domain. At the top of the Eu ranking (95.6), Malta enjoys a good balance in access to health services and overall health status for both women and men. Women’s level of full-time employment has also increased and access to financial resources has improved for both women and men. The  proportion of university graduates shows hardly any gap between women and men.

But faculty dean Andrew Azzopardi says evidence suggests a worsening picture on a number of levels.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index reveals in 2013 Malta ranked 84 out of 135 countries in the gender gap, and then in 2014 it ranked 99 out of 142, in 2015, 104 out of 145 countries, and in 2016 ranked 108 out of 144 countries.

“Malta has been constantly falling in its ranking since 2006 – when it stood at 71 out of 115 countries,” Azzopardi says.

The European Institute for Gender Equality’s (EIGE) Gender Equality Index – which measures equality between women and men in the domains of work, money, knowledge, time, power and health, shows Malta still approaching the halfway mark towards equality between women and men. Malta scored 46.8 out of 100 (full equality) on EIGE’s most recent update in 2015, ranking its 16 among the 28 EU member states.

Another serious challenge is in the unequal division of time women and men spend on care, domestic tasks and social activities, with women spending increasingly more time on care activities and little on leisure, sporting or voluntary activities.

The presence of women in Malta’s highest democratic institutions remains alarmingly low: only 16% of electoral candidates in 2013 were women, one female Cabinet Minister out of 14, nine female Members of Parliament, and six female judges out of 23.

The human rights organisation Aditus will be announcing screenings of its new documentary, Burning Bikinis, which explores Malta’s feminist movement from the 1960s to the present day. “The fact that Malta’s President is a woman is nothing more than a convenient statistic for some, but no real consolation for most. These figures are in sharp contrast to those showing female graduates outnumbering male ones, the proportion of female electoral candidates who get elected is far higher that it is for male colleagues, and girls’ overall exam performance exceeds that of boys,” Aditus’s director Neil Falzon said.

Other areas show women in Malta still victims of widespread gender violence. According to the FRA survey in 2015, 22% of women in Malta experienced physical and/or sexual violence from the age of 15. CrimeMalta states that domestic violence reports have increased tenfold between 2007 and 2014

“Within this context, any delay in the new law on gender based violence is uncalled for,” Andrew Azzopardi said.

In 2016, 1,111 reports of the 1,446 police reports on violence were filed where by women, the rest by men.

The Partit Demokratiku called for the elimination of gender-based violence. “This does not come only through punishment but it also comes from educating our children to respect one another and that people are equal, and deserve equal right and respect irrelevant of their gender or sex. Laws which cover domestic violence and gender-based violence should be toughened so as to deter people from using violence against fellow members of society.”

The PD said that the Bogdanovic police bail case, was a case in point showing how victims were protected.

Other areas where Malta’s gender equality lags behind include science and technology, where 48% of employees in scientific and technology fields are females compared to 52% in 2006. The number of women employed in STEM related fields declined in the last 10 years.  On the other hand, the number of men employed in this area has increased (48% in 2006 compared to 52% in 2015).

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.