The mentality that a rape victim is partly to blame for what happened needs to change and people must understand that this violence can never be justified, Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli insisted this morning.

She was delivering the opening speech at a seminar entitled Act Against Rape, Use the Istanbul Convention, organized by the Malta Confederation of Women's Organizations.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence aims at preventing violence, protecting victims, prosecuting perpetrators and adopting a coordinated approach.

Ms Dalli said that Malta lacks statistics of the incidence of rape. Through her experience, she believed that rape was under reported.

Because of the lack of statistics, she added, Malta did not have the full picture, it could not support women properly and it could not raise awareness.

"The subject is still seen as taboo. There are problems of perception that hinder us from seeing the complete picture," she said, adding that, for example, if a black man raped a woman, people generalized on a level of rape whereas if a white Maltese man did it, some people said this was because the victim was dressed in a vulgar way.

She said there was the need to better coordinate support services. At the moment some NGOs were duplicating services, an issue which her ministry as trying to address.

The minister stressed that rape cases should be reported and that evidence needed to be collected at once. A woman photographer should be available to take any photos of injuries.

There was also a lack of crisis response centers to follow victims and help them get through the trauma.

The minister said action was needed to address the mentality that put part of the blame on the woman.

In May, she recalled, a gang rape had been described as act of folly, sending a bad message to society.

Ms Dalli said she agreed with the ratification of the Istanbul convention.


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