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Politicians, wake up and smell the coffee

Women’s rights 'thrown under the bus' for the sake of political expediency

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

In this little, heavily fragmented island of ours, there is a unifying force that ties together local politicos of all colours and hues: their wholehearted, undivided concern and preoccupation with Maltese women.

Yet, if you think that is somehow meant to make us feel special – think again. It is much more sinister than that.

You see, there are very few countries in the world (six in all, inclusive of the Holy See) where pregnant women have no control over their bodies under any circumstance and our little island is one of them.

Nevertheless it was still excruciatingly cringeworthy reading the statements from, basically, all political parties stating their unequivocal commitment to keep Malta's absolute legal ban on abortion. (Kudos to Alfred Sant and Carmel Cacopardo for at least noticing the oxymoron that this situation creates)

If you think that's bad enough, you'd be wrong. It gets even worse.

During Malta's EU accession negotiations, the Maltese government of the day ensured that their power to control what women in Malta can or cannot do with their bodies is enshrined in the Accession Treaty of the European Union.

Protocol 7 of the treaty states that no matter what any other European treaty says, current or future, abortion laws in Malta will remain unaffected. So no matter what rights women across EU will have and freely exercise, Maltese women will not have them, unless granted by local politicians.

Oh, aren't we Maltese women special? Actually, we are so special that there is no other group of women in the world that were treated so “specially” by their government.

Women's bodies in no other country have ever been the subject of concern of, what is, at bottom line, a trade treaty (with some garnish). In a nutshell, women in Malta have been made to lay down their bodies for some to make more money.

It is even more gut-wrenching that EU liberal democracies accepted these terms and went along with them. I wonder what would have happened to other leading EU partners, if they tried to do something similar to women in their own countries? But, no surprises there.

Denying women's right to safe and legal abortion in all circumstances is one of the ultimate forms of violence on women

It is not the first time that women’s rights have been thrown under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Denying women's right to safe and legal abortion in all circumstances is one of the ultimate forms of violence on women, particularly the ones who are most vulnerable, because it encapsulates almost all forms of violence in one piece of legislation.

It is a form of physical violence because it can cause death and damage the physical health of women. It is mental and emotional violence because it affects her psychological, mental and emotional wellbeing.

It is a form of financial violence, because it affects her ability to study, work and earn money. When one adds to the current scenario the limited availability and accessibility to contraception, and our flimsy record on sex education in Malta, the actions of Maltese political class cannot be seen as anything less than sadistically evil.

Therefore, it is obvious to me, as a lawyer working in the area of violence against women, that the relationship between consecutive Maltese governments and women in Malta, when it comes to Maltese women’s ability and right to have and exercise full control of their bodies, is one of abusive power and control.

And similar to every narcissistic abuser I have ever met, Maltese politicos are proud of what they are doing and publicly speaking about it. My advice to any client in a similar situation is simple – stand up and fight.

But no more running.

March 8 is the date where we celebrate everything women were, are and can be.

It is also a day when we raise awareness on issues that affect women that are still unresolved and/or in need of more work. We do this by making politicians wake up, smell the coffee and take note of the problem.

So, put in simple (and legal) terms: Maltese politicos, consider yourselves notified.

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