Femicide bill back in parliament for second reading

The bill was prompted by the murder of Paulina Dembska last January

Government's femicide bill is back on the parliamentary agenda, with a second reading of the legislation that will introduce femicide into the criminal code. 

The bill had already been tabled in the last legislature before parliament was dissolved due to general election in March. It was tabled again by new justice minister Jonathan Attard. 

In his parliamentary address, Attard recalled the murder of Paulina Dembska. Her murder sparked a nation-wide debate on femicide, eventually prompting government to amend the criminal code to include the concept of femicide.

"We immediately began a consultation process with groups to understand better the challenges being faced by women in Maltese society," Attard said. 

He added that a country report compiled by the University of Malta and the Women's Rights Foundation last January had also recommended making femicide a criminal offence or an aggravating offence of homicide. 

Attard explained that the bill in question does the latter. Once the bill is passed, femicide will become an aggravating offence and will force the Maltese court to deliver higher penalties when a homicide is deemed to be of a femicidal nature, motivated by gender. 

Rebecca Buttigieg, the parliamentary secretary for reforms and equality, praised the bill and added that femicide should even be considered as a distinct crime from homicide. 

"We still have situations where women don’t feel safe because someone has control over them or feels they have power over them in a relationship when they should be equal.”

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar added that many women face double-standards in Malta compared to their male counterparts. "Outgoing men ge all the praise, while women with the same qualities are shunned," she noted. 

She also pointed to a recent incident in court, where a woman requested to stop the prosecution of her former partner, and aggressor, because she felt that undergoing trial would be detrimental to her mental health.

"We’re failing these people. I hope she finds all the happiness in life. What she passed through, I would wish on no one else. No woman or girl should pass through that situation.”