MP files complaint with equality watchdog over Bartolo’s ‘hymen’ comment

Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg files complaint with National Commission for the Promotion of Equality over Education Minister’s comments • Mifsud Bonnici suggests consumers’ rights should be enshrined in the Constitution

Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg has filed an official complaint with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) over the Education Minister’s “hymen” comments.

Bartolo tested the waters of good taste in a political speech Sunday morning, when he likened the Nationalist Party to a woman seeking hymen reconstruction surgery, although he was careful not to use those words. In parliament this morning, reacting to criticism from some quarters, the minister said he did not regret saying what he said.

Deploring Bartolo’s “vulgar and sexist speech”, Buttigieg questions what steps would the NCPE be taking against Bartolo whose comments “were an insult to all women”.

“I call on Minister Helena Dalli to publicly express herself on the matter…Bartolo abused of his right to freedom of expression,” she said.

Speaking during the budgetary vote for the Ministry for Equal Opportunities and Civil Liberties, Buttigieg said she was concerned by the NCPE’s silence. She also urged the Bartolo to apologise for his comments, pointing out that as the minister for education “he should be setting an example”.

In defence of Bartolo, backbencher Deborah Schembri urged the PN “not to be more catholic than the Pope”.

In her intervention during the same debate, Schembri said Bartolo has always been on the forefront of the equality battle, having pushed for the divorce referendum and the Gender Identity Bill.

“He is the minister who has given us free childcare centres and has always fought for rights and equality,” she said.

Acknowledging that his comment “may have not been 100% fortunate”, Schembri however argued that the PN should not try and score political points “by doing something which may do women more harm than good”.

Buttigieg has also asked the NCPE to investigate V18 artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi’s anti-Islamic rant on Facebook. She said that both the NCPE and Dalli shouldn’t have remained silent on the matter.

“It is shocking that the Valletta 2018 Foundation feels that this is a ‘case closed’ just because Azzopardi apologized. He has fanned racist comments and has failed to reflect the Foundation’s principles of promoting diversity,” she said.

Azzopardi has since apologized for his comments, stressing that he has participated in projects in the past that not only involved people from various cultures, but that also sought to celebrate the idea of cultural diversity in all its forms.

However, Buttigieg argued that Azzopardi did not deserve the post of artistic director if he “uses people to make money and then speak behind their back”.

Turning to the budget speech, Buttigieg question how much the budgetary allocation for next year was “female centric” – as described by the Finance Minister – when there was nothing about single fathers.

“Was it a female centric budget when, this week, female workers at Enemalta were informed they would no longer benefit from flexi-time?”

Turning to the social partners, Buttigieg said that members of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) felt that meetings should not be held in a ministerial building while the minister should not be present for every single meeting.

MCESD currently meets at Dalli’s ministry and the minister is a permanent member.

Members, Buttigieg said, have also requested the assistance of experts and researchers to provide further support to their discussion.

“They feel that the meetings have become a talking shop, rather than drafting long-term programmes reflecting the work being carried out both in the Maltese and the European Parliament,” she said.

The Nationalist MP also had words of praise for Minister Dalli, praising her having “the courage which others didn’t” when the civil unions legislation was approved.

The Nationalist Party had abstained on the civil unions legislation because it had reservations on gay adoptions.

But this evening in parliament, Buttigieg unequivocally told Dalli that she should be proud to be the minister under whose watch civil union rights were granted.

“This year will go down in history,” Buttigieg said, also referring to the Constitutional amendment she proposed to protect LGBT citizens against all forms of discrimination.

Mifsud Bonnici suggests consumers’ rights should be enshrined in the Constitution

During her intervention, PN MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici proposed that consumers’ rights should be enshrined as constitutional guarantees.

“I think it’s time to consider the possibility that consumers’ rights are included in our Constitution. This is a step which was adopted in Spain, Portugal, Lithuania and Poland who have made gigantic steps in this sector,” she said.

Mifsud Bonnici argued that institutionalizing such rights would guarantee that consumers are well-protected and that the responsible agencies and organizations would be empowered to protect consumers’ rights.

Mifsud Bonnici was more critical of Dalli’s work, reiterating her opinion that the consumer affairs portfolio “should not remain Dalli’s responsibility”.