Updated | Dalli hits back after PN MP claims Labour failing to bridge gender gap

PN MP Clyde Puli lambasts government for failing to bridge Malta's gender gap, but civil liberties minister Helena Dalli says Malta ranks poorly in Global Gender Gap Index due to ban on abortion and shortage of female MPs

Opposition MP Clyde Puli has accused the government of failing to bridge Malta's gender gap
Opposition MP Clyde Puli has accused the government of failing to bridge Malta's gender gap

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli has rubbished harsh criticism by Opposition MP Clyde Puli that the Labour government has failed to bridge the gender gap between men and women.

Addressing a parliamentary debate on the 2017 Budget for the civil liberties ministry, Puli suggested that the government has failed its pre-electoral pledge to be the most feminist administration in Maltese history. To back up his argument, he cited the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which indicated that Malta has slipped 20 places since 2012 and is now the worst-ranked European country.

“The study found that Malta slipped 35 places with regards womens’ salaries, 38 places with regards life expectancy for women, and 28 places with regards the number of women in management positions,” he said. “Malta is now in the bottom quarter of countries rated in the reported, it’s worst ever ranking so far. The decline took place under this government’s watch, so I hope it doesn’t now blame Malta’s poor ranking on the previous administration.”

However, Dalli retorted that the GGGR had ranked Malta poorly because of its blanket ban on abortion, its lack of paternity leave, and because very few of its MPs were women. Indeed, she noted that Malta recently was recently ranked as the European country with the smallest gender pay gap.  

“The GGGR considers abortion to be a woman’s right, meaning that countries like Malta in which abortion is banned slip down the rankings,” she said. “I haven’t seen abortion feature in any political party’s electoral manifesto, and we all know what the situation with it is in Malta.”

She admitted that too few MPs in Malta’s Parliament are women, but argued that countries like Rwanda ranked higher than Malta simply because their Constitution imposes gender quotas that require half of MPs to be women.

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli said she would have failed Clyde Puli had he been her student
Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli said she would have failed Clyde Puli had he been her student

“If there was a government that introduced structures and strived for women to get involved in politics, then it was this government,” she said. “Malta is the only country in the world that offers free childcare but that doesn’t feature on the Global Gender Gap report.

“I wouldn’t have expected such criticism from Clyde Puli, a social scientist like myself. If one of my Masters’ students had come to me with Puli’s theory, then I would have failed them.”

During his speech, Puli also warned that Joseph Muscat’s government has failed on material equality, claiming that the number of people living in poverty has increased from 88,000 in 2012 to 94,000 now.

“Poverty has increased at a time when the economy grew, which means that wealth wasn’t distributed fairly enough.

“The government thinks it can combat poverty by giving 41,000 people in poverty 61c a month, enough for them to buy two pastizzi,” he said, referring to a recent social assistance scheme.

He warned that the rise in poverty “the price that the people are paying for corruption” and claimed that “some people are eating the whole cake while others are being left the crumbs”. 

Elsewhere in the debate, shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg warned that a tax on toiletries - announced in the 2017 Budget - was tantamount to discrimination against women. 

"This was introduced as a sanitary tax in the UK and Australia, and was subject to widespread protests as it discriminated against women," she said.