[WATCH] Pro-lifer claims abortion 'more traumatising than rape'

Miriam Sciberras says a discussion on abortion should not lead to its legalisation • Lara Dimitrijevic says abortion is a reality for some Maltese women even if people refuse to talk about it • Carmen Sammut calls for a discussion on the issue

Lara Dimitrijevic, Miriam Sciberras and Carmen Sammut on Xtra
Lara Dimitrijevic, Miriam Sciberras and Carmen Sammut on Xtra

Pro-life activist Miriam Sciberras has claimed abortion is "more traumatising than rape" as she crossed swords with pro-choice activist Lara Dimitrijevic, who insisted Malta could no longer ignore the issue.

Sciberras, who heads the Life Network, a pro-life group, said the idea of a discussion on abortion was "scary" if it leads to its legalisation. "The rights of embryos would be under attack," she said, adding the embryo had as much rights as a human being.

Sciberras said around 60% of women who resort to abortion, do so because they have no other option or support. "If these women had support, they wouldn’t resort to abortion... abortion is more traumatising than rape."

But Dimitrijevic, founder of Foundation for Women’s Rights, said abortion is a reality and should not be a taboo issue. She insisted that a discussion about abortion and sexual reproductive health rights was necessary.

"We can’t have blinkers, thinking that if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist," Dimitrijevic said.

"Abortion is a reality even if we do not see it. British statistics reveal the number of Maltese women who go to the UK for abortions. I think we all know someone who went abroad to have an abortion," she said.

The activists were guests on current affairs programme Xtra, hosted by Saviour Balzan. The other guest was academic Carmen Sammut. The programme tackled various issues related to equality and women’s rights.

Dimitrijevic said women who had an abortion were stigmatised and shamed. "This is the very reason why a discussion about abortion is important, but not only about abortion but also about sexual reproductive health rights."

Read also: MaltaToday Survey: Abortion remains a no-go area for Maltese

Sammut agreed that a discussion was necessary. She said that while she understood why most people were against abortion, there were certain situations that required a discussion.

"We have to understand certain situations such as if a child or woman is raped, or her life is in danger and have a better system in place to address these situations," Sammut said.

Gender Roles, Equality and Wage gaps

Moving on to gender equality, Dimitrijevic said it could be achieved but a patriarchal society placed barriers in a woman's path.

Lara Dimitrijevic
Lara Dimitrijevic

She said that while positive and progressive reforms were taking place, there were various other issues that needed to be tackled. While more discussions were needed, there also needs to be more knowledge on the subject for both women and men.

When discussing the discrepancies of women and men in the work place and in decision-making position, Sammut said that although more women graduate than men, their male counterparts often get higher roles than women.

READ ALSO: Maltese women remain under-represented on decision-making boards

“Although more women graduate from university, they find less jobs and are paid less than man,” Sammut said.

Currently, while 77.9% of men are employed, only 53% of women are part of the Maltese workforce - the lowest number in European countries even though the number has gone up over the past five years.

Sammut said that there was a big difference in the courses men and women choose at university. She said that while the educational sector has a majority of women, and a lack of man, it was important to note that a teacher’s wage is different than that of an engineer or ICT practitioner, two highly male dominated sectors.

The three guests agreed there were various reasons for this discrepancy, such as child bearing and caring.

"I have all respect to those women who decide to stay home and take care of their children, as long as it is their choice. However, if women want to work, they should be given the right support and help to do so," Sciberras said.

Dimitrijevic said despite the proliferation of women in the workforce, the prevalent culture was one that expected women to retain the same obligations as before.

Miriam Sciberras
Miriam Sciberras

"When a woman goes to work, she is still in charge of taking care of the home, the children, and everything else all alone," Dimitrijevic said, adding that men had the duty to help and do their part as a parent as well.

Dimitrijevic said people should be educated from childhood on equality. "Even nowadays, when you ask young kids about the role of a woman, they often say ‘cooking, cleaning, caring’. It’s not right, we need to empower children from a young age."

She went on to say that children should be taught about different genders and family, so as to understand that every person and family is different.

However, Sciberras, disagreed that children should be taught about different genders and genderlessness.

Sciberras urged caution when teaching young people about sex. "We cannot teach them that there is no link between sex and reproduction," she said.

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