[WATCH] Women seen as men’s property, equality secretary says of Malta’s patriarchal ‘wound’

The fight against domestic violence is one against patriarchy, say Rosianne Cutajar and Therese Comodini Cachia

Rosianne Cutajar (left) and Therese Comodini Cachia (right)
Rosianne Cutajar (left) and Therese Comodini Cachia (right)

Malta’s laws are not enough to fight the scourge of domestic violence, unless the country challenges its patriarchal mentality, the new parliamentary secretary for equality Rosianne Cutajar has said.

Speaking after the murder of Chantelle Chetcuti by her former partner, Cutajar said on TVM’s Xtra that it was clear that the strengthening of domestic violence laws and harsher sentences for perpetrators were not enough of a deterrent.

“The laws are there, and they are sufficient,” Cutajar said, “but I attribute this social wound to the, unfortunate, patriarchal mentality […] which views women as second-class, and almost treats women as men’s property.”

“As a politician, I will be aggressively throwing my weight behind awareness, even in schools,” Cutajar said, while appealing for a change in mentality, and for more education on the matter so as to better tackle this complex social issue.

Nationalist MP Therese Comodini Cachia agreed, arguing that domestic violence was a result of a mentality embedded in Maltese culture where one “possesses their partner”.

“We cannot just address this with laws, but we need to take action long before we arrive to the homicide.”

Comodini Cachia said alarm bells should be ringing when an initial report of domestic violence is filed, adding that it is imperative that the victim and family are followed up on regularly once an individual is found guilty of domestic violence, and not merely left to their own devices.

Cutajar said legal changes, such as the fact that police can now continue legal proceedings against a perpetrator of domestic violence even if their victims forgive them, have made it easier to charge abusers. But Comodini Cachia argued that more needs to be done. “It is not enough to have legal procedures which work, but social assistance procedures which don’t. We need to have a team of social workers who can follow up on these cases from the moment that they are first reported.”

Cutajar said police were being trained in how to handle cases of domestic violence and support victims of abuse but admitted there was more to be done, and that such training had to be constant.

Comodini Cachia agreed on the need for more resources, as well as more social workers and counsellors who can provide assistance to victims long before they require going to the police. “We need an initial stage assessment and process. If we do not start from there, we are going to be letting victims suffer and allowing the situation to get out of control,” Comodini Cachia said.

Cutrajar said she will be working to increase the resources for the Commission which supports victims of domestic violence, saying she will turn the post of domestic violence commissioner to become a full-time role, as opposed to applicants being employed on a part-time basis, as they currently are.

More in Xtra