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Women are not expected to stay quiet

They are not just one thing... it's about time women speak out

My first reaction when it was first suggested to me that I should write a blog on Times of Malta was, where do I start? What shall the blog be all about?

Should it be about violence on women and domestic violence? Goodness knows that seemingly endless stream of women knocking at the doors of my office is proof enough that there is still lack of awareness of the severity of the problem. To date, my organisation, Women’s Rights Foundation, with my very dear and special colleagues, have provided support for over 600 women survivors of domestic violence only. This figure does not include survivors of other forms of violence on women.

Or perhaps, should it be about human trafficking for sexual exploitation? Yes, it does exist and it is rampant, well disguised and yet totally in our faces. Countless women, from EU countries, Eastern Europe, Asia and other economically deprived areas of the world, are brought to our shores with a promise of jobs and better future, only to end up in 'massage parlours', hilariously named 'Gentlemen’s clubs', brothels and yes even the flat next door.

Many seems to see no issue with it, as long as it’s foreign girls that satisfy the “needs” of the local “gentlemen” or the passing tourist. Selling women is a business model more profitable than drugs, because you can sell a kilo of heroin once, but you can sell a girl (indeed a child) or a woman, 10, 20 times a day and, at the end, when you made your money, sell her again to the next abuser, just to repeat the process again.

Closely linked to trafficking is the problem of prostitution. The issue might seem as a pressing one, considering that the current government has a mandate to discuss the topic. Some say that it should be regularised, arguing that there are women who chose the life of a ‘sex worker’ as a career choice because it’s “easy money”.

Sometimes I wonder, what if it had to be suggested that their daughters’ choose the ‘carrier’ as a ‘sex worker’? Would they encourage them? Should we actually teach our children about having a ‘carrier’ as a prostitute, same way as we teach them other professions such as lawyers, doctors, teachers? I mean, why not. It’s just a job, right?

If the debate preceding the introduction of emergency contraception showed anything, is that the sheer level of ignorance on the topic is staggering

Or should I start with reproductive health and reproductive rights? If the debate preceding the introduction of emergency contraception showed anything, is that the sheer level of ignorance on the topic is staggering.

Even more depressing is the apparent inability of many to empathise and put themselves in the shoes of women who are facing some of the most difficult choices in their lives. To paint the picture as “black and white” and boil it down to abortion is to show the ignorance of the realities women have to face and to expose the ignorance of the spectrum of issues related to reproductive health and rights. I have been already labelled a “baby killer”, both locally and abroad, for suggesting a mature debate about it, so I might as well make it my priority.

Or how about portrayal of women in the media? Or how women’s bodies are dismembered, commodified and used as a marketing tool? How about sexual harassment on the streets, place of work, our schools? What about representation of women in business? Lack of representation in political decision making? How about gender pay gap? Lack of education on creating power equal, violence-free relationships? The list of issues needing attention is seemingly never ending.

This kind of led me to think, should this blog be about deeply seethed misogyny that is so openly expressed in local media and local social networks? Don’t believe me? Check the comments sections of local media pages for a fresh dose of reality.

So, here I am, stating the obvious: this blog will be about women, which means that it will be about many things, because women are not one thing. And then, there are things that we are not. We are not punching bags, expected to stay quiet, keep forgiving and suffer in silence. We are not pieces of meat, available to be sold and bought for use and abuse, with the blessing of laws and uninterested authorities, for someone’s profit. And yes, we are not two legged incubators either, duty bound by our gender and societal norms, to sacrifice our lives, our bodies, our physical and mental health, our social and psychological wellbeing to the altar of ignorance and misogyny.

There is a pressing need to bring some of these topics that never or rarely had full attention of the media and population at large, to the fore. Hopefully, this blog will play its part in bringing about healthy debate on the issues sometimes considered a taboo in Maltese society.

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