[WATCH] Government presents historic bill to include femicide in criminal code

The amendments introduce the concept of femicide but does not make it its own crime

The government has announced historic amendments to the criminal code to introduce the concept of femicide that will be tabled in parliament this afternoon. 

The bill does not make femicide its own crime; however, it responds to the reality that more women are killed because of their gender than men. Femicide is the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that the bill “made sense” within the remits of the law while acknowledging the fact that homicide carries the harshest punishment, which is life in prison. 

“In a matter of weeks, we have managed to put together a bill that is ready to be presented to parliament. We have found a solution that acknowledges the reality of femicide in Malta but also makes sense within the remits of the law,” Zammit Lewis said. 

The only country that has tried to pass a bill on femicide where it is a separate offence is Cyprus; the bill has been stuck in the debate stage. 

In a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon, Robert Abela said Cabinet had approved legal changes to “strengthen the fight against gender-based violence and introduce the concept of femicide in the Criminal Code”.

Activist and lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic praised the bill, stating that it was an important step toward eradicating violence against women and that it had the full support of the Women's Rights Foundation. 

Equality Minister Owen Bonnici said that the bill is only one step of many that need to be taken to fight gender-based violence. He acknowledged that men can be victims of simila violence, but admitted that it is importnat for men to understand that women are subjected to far more instances of such violence in their lifetime.

"Misogyny will not be tolerated in this country. This toxic, patriarchial environment can destory women, but it also harms us in general and in different ways. To tackle gender-based violence, the country needs to join together so that Malta can be a place of full equality between women and men."

The bill

The bill presented will commemorate the memories of Paulina Demska, Chantelle Chetcuti and other women who were murdered due to their gender. 

It will also make reference to ‘crime of passion’, which is often used by the defence to get softer punishments. However, in instances of femicide, this will no longer be an acceptable excuse.  

The bill also speaks of intent, not only when the crime starts and end with homicide but also the possibility of an attempt that is not carried out. 

It makes it so that any person of the male gender who is found guilty of voluntary homicide on the female gender will have to be given the maximum sentence.  

The amendment will apply in the case of the killing of a woman or a girl of a man motivated by gender. It will include domestic violence, honour killings, misogynistic intentions, religious practices such as genital mutilation and sexual abuse.   

The bill aims to raise awareness among the general public that violence against women will no longer be tolerated.