Fathers accuse courts of gender bias in Valletta protest

Fathers’ lobby group says courts are denying them meaningful access to their children

The courts have been accused of gender bias against fathers when dealing with separation cases
The courts have been accused of gender bias against fathers when dealing with separation cases

Fathers protested outside the law courts on Saturday to raise awareness on what they claim is the judiciary’s gender bias in denying them meaningful access to their children.

The event called Jien u Wliedi: Vittmi Tal-Qrati (Me and my children: victims of the court) was held on the eve of Father’s Day and organised by Flimkien Missirijiet Inqumu.
The lobby group has been raising awareness on the way fathers involved in separation proceedings are being treated by the courts when determining parenting rights.

Several men held posters with phrases calling out the discrimination. One of the posters read: 'I am a father. But it’s as if my son is not my own. They are eradicating his memories of me'.

FMI President Claude Degorgio spoke about how he spent 12 years trying to get the court to allow him to spend more time with his son.

“I spent 12 interminable years going to court simply to be allowed to spend more time with my son,” he said. “Today, after such a long time of being invisible, we finally stand here to show you all that we and our children are victims of the court. The biggest victims are our children, and the representation of children, adequately followed and assisted by professionals, is necessary and missing.”

He blamed the state of affairs on the court’s “lethargy and disinterest” in these issues.

Another member, Reuben Zammit Saliba Toledo said described the gender bias in courts as “an open secret”. He added that gender bias harms fathers but also the child who have a right to have two parents.
He went on to describe the experiences which have become common for parents in this situation, such as short hearings, stalling in the courts, court applications ignored for months, children uprooted from their father’s home for no reason, and the lack of suitable and consistent procedures in the executive branch. 

Children’s rights lawyer Lynn Chircop Faure presented a working paper, including a set of recommendations for the implementation of more effective procedures and legal provisions to safeguard the rights of children and other family members.

She called for more understanding and sensitivity by the courts when dealing with cases where intervention is sought. The people involved, including the children, she said, expect the courts to identify and implement solutions as early as possible.

Chircop Faure called for decisions to be taken in reasonable timeframes and without exorbitant expenses.

Other guest speakers at the event included PN justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina, independent candidate Arnold Cassola, and Nanniet Malta chief Philip Chircop.