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Whose public morals?

Is a distressed woman in a garbage truck more offensive than people filming her?

Which side offended public morals the most? Photo: Shutterstock

Which side offended public morals the most? Photo: Shutterstock

Let me put it this way: could someone who understands the law and court sentencing explain to me why would a man who is found guilty of sexually abusing a vulnerable woman in his spiritual care over a period of time gets a three-month suspended jail term, while a woman who is evidently going through a hard time in her life and who finds herself resorting to alcohol, only to then jump naked in a rubbish truck and put her life at risk, gets a 10-month suspended jail term charged on offences related to public morals?

Indeed, one cannot be reductive when it comes to such matters, and I would be the last to question the wisdom of a judge or magistrate. But pray do explain to me: Who offends public morals most in Malta? And whose public morals are we speaking of?

Is the sight of a distressed woman in a garbage truck risking death more offensive than sexually exploiting a vulnerable woman? Aren’t the prying eyes of a collective group of peeping Toms videoing and looking at a woman in distress and in a state of undress on social media, more offensive? And here I congratulate Herman Grech for refusing to share the video of this tragic event and saying why the Times of Malta refused to do so.

Aren’t we losing the plot? Isn't the offence to public morals caused by the voyeurism and the reduction of this tragic event into a voyeuristic event? Isn't the continuous exploitation of women, and to add insult to injury, the evident bias against women in the course of such events, the real offence to public morals?

What do we mean by morals? Whose yardstick are they measured against? A patriarchal assumption that women should be somehow fairer and weaker and therefore more submissive? The convenient myth that women are by nature hysteric and that their weakness somehow assumes a point of submission? Or are we now conceding to gender privilege?

We are still having to listen to idiots who insist that that feminism is just another thing that comes with political correctness — as if political correctness is a capricious narrative cooked up by the liberal left.

Let’s look at what is happening under our nose. In a matter of a couple of months — and here my memory fails to list all of them - we have been “entertained” by the quasi-voyeuristic reportage of innumerable stories where women were not only the victims, but also the butt of ridicule for being the victims.

Recently an elderly “gentleman” decides to scare his wife to death with threatening behaviour. The reportage told us how she ran naked out in the street screaming. We were told how her husband insisted on his “needs” being served in the same way he perceives sexual behaviour being acted in a porn film.

Just a few days ago we heard how another Neanderthal husband decided to burst his wife’s spleen because she did not serve him supper. You see, his royal highness needed to be served promptly. Not getting what he wanted he decided to beat the hell out of his wife.

At the very least, there was outrage, and more so the women found the courage to denounce their violent husbands. But is this a consolation? How many times do we hear of sexual abuse, of beatings, of domestic abuse against women? But how many times do we hear that this has been going on for many years?

I have lost count of the reports of women being the victims of preying morons who seem to think they have the prerogative to act on the whims of their appetites. Isn’t this storyline not enough to convince us that there is something seriously amiss when it comes to women’s rights in Maltese society? (And yes, this is also something that is continuously discussed elsewhere, but then again, can we simply console ourselves by this?)

Some would argue that this is a matter of mentality. Can we excuse criminal behavior by mentality? And could the law suffice to address this issue? It seems that some are only keen to see the foreigner jailed, especially people of colour, or those who happen to be of the “wrong” religion, or drug addicts, and even more women. It is all too easy to see that vulnerable people are jailed, especially those who are very much disliked by the high moral standards of a society whose religious acumen is often demonstrated by a frenzy of tribal paganism exercised under the pretext of politics or religion.

One must forgive me for not understanding how those self-elected members of the moral majority are so wound up by the floated legalisation of “gentlemen’s” clubs—and I am with them when they say that these forms of “entertainment” ultimately exploit women—but at the same time, the same moral majority is not expressing an outrage over the continuous violence against women.

To be fair, many have indeed protested with disdain against some of the cases I mentioned. However, this is not enough. There is far more to be done and this cannot be expected simply from some more legislation—though it helps is at the very least if our political parties make an effort and show real leadership on this matter.

To paraphrase Enrico Berlinguer, a man cannot be free if he accepts a system which essentially continues to oppress women. Here I accentuate the gender because I want to remind myself and all men that there is nothing gender neutral about this matter.

Indeed, one cannot be free if one is blind to the fact that women are seriously disadvantaged in society. This is not to be construed as a matter of men’s freedom (as men often do), but as a matter of social justice, without which there is no liberty in any shape or form; which also means that any talk of democracy is futile and ultimately ridiculous until women are equal citizens with equal rights.

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