“I urge you to continue in helping, and to create a world, where the values of equality, of equity, of dignity, of respect, and of peace, are indeed reflected in the lives of all women and girls, and of all humanity, for the benefit of both present and future generations”

President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, delivered the opening speech at the “Final Conference of the COST Action IS-2016 on Femicide across Europe”, organised in collaboration with the Department of Gender Studies within the Faculty of Social Wellbeing in the University of Malta.

The President said that, it is still shocking that in the 21st century, “there is still a need for us to address the terrible reality of women, who are killed for the simple reason, that they are women”, adding that this terrible issue must be another reason for the continuous strive towards equality, equity, respect and dignity, “for women and all of humanity”.

“We must ensure that all people have the opportunity to live their lives, free from gender discrimination, free from fear, and free from the threat of violence”, she said.

“It is imperative not to allow ourselves to think of male violence against women, only in terms of domestic violence”.

President Coleiro Preca explained that femicide includes: any form of domestic violence that ends in death; every rape that ends in murder; the scourge of honour killings and gender-selective infant killings; and any other murder where the victim’s gender is a factor in her death.

The President said that violence against women has no place, in a culture of a human rights approach, which upholds the ideals of equality, of equity, of solidarity, of peace, and of well-being, and urged those present to be “bold, in reminding the European community, that femicide is not only a series of isolated incidents”.

She said that femicide is intrinsically linked to an entire system, which operates in deadly ways, within the status quo of our nations, and is also linked to a culture, which condones the murder of women or fails to credibly prosecute and punish those who are responsible. In light of the fact that there is lack of information which specifically gives visibility and targets femicide, the President said there is a need for trans-disciplinary approaches, which share knowledge and resources across sectors, focusing on the experiences of both the victim and the perpetrator, “in order to move forward, towards a deep-rooted change for effective equality, equity, respect and dignity”.

Here, President Coleiro Preca commended the COST Action Network, for their work in establishing the very first pan-European coalition against femicide. Labelling the network as “a ray of hope”, the President said that this network is “bringing together academics, professionals, and researchers, for the very first time, is conducting, in-depth national studies, to advance our knowledge about femicide, with the aim of, also informing the work of policy makers, in our respective nations”.

“The issues we must address are, first and foremost, a matter of universal human rights”.

The President said that the killing of women occurs everywhere and that gender-motivated violence has an insidious presence in every country and culture. For this reason, she said, “we must continue reminding everybody, that these are questions, of intrinsic human dignity and respect”.

President Coleiro Preca appealed to the members of the COST Action Network so that their academic work transcends all strata of society. She said that in this way “we can ensure that women are more aware of the threat of femicide as subsequently, they can become more resilient, in the face of adversity”.

The President said the politicians and the courts have to reminded of the fact that “women’s rights are human rights”, whilst she reiterated that the fact that women remain underrepresented, within positions of power, is a massive setback to ensure that these important issues, are given the proper visibility, and are effectively addressed.

She also urged the judiciary, all over Europe and the world, to live up to their responsibility and take the necessary actions, to state that, violence can never be tolerated, and encouraged those present to stand up against, services and processes of justice which fail to honour the dignity of women and girls; which fail to deliver assurances of respect; and which fail to protect the rights of women and girls, who have been, and are, victims of violence.

The President also said that the special vulnerabilities which are faced by migrating women and girls are other important aspects to this issue which need more visibility.

“The suffering and loss experienced by countless families because of femicide will only go on creating deep wounds across our societies unless we take action now”.

The President appealed to all those present to be courageous, to do more, to be bolder and to move faster. “We must be proactive, and address our education systems”, she said.

“We must educate our children from early years, to respect one another, to acknowledge and celebrate diversity, and to uphold universal human rights. We must strengthen the justice systems of our respective nations. We must do more to provide training for the police and judiciary to eliminate stereotyping and prejudices towards women. We must improve support services for survivors and families. We must be innovative to dedicate new strategies to prevent violence against women and girls from ever occurring in the first place”, she stated.

Referring to the Istanbul Convention, which has been signed by 44 European Countries but only ratified by 22, the President said that she is very proud of the fact that Malta has not only signed and ratified but is also in the process of incorporating the Istanbul convention into our domestic law.

“I would like to take this opportunity, to urge all Member States of the Council of Europe, to sign and ratify, and bring into their respective domestic laws, this essential convention that addresses issues of violence against women”, the President appealed.

“There is more that we must do, to muster the necessary political will, and to motivate a cultural change, for the benefit of all women, everywhere”

The President called for new and stronger synergies to be built, across the European Union and beyond, to empower a European-wide action network against femicide.

“I believe that we must encourage our law enforcement, support services, and police forces, to develop their capacity to support women, and the specific risks they face. Appropriate protection measures must be made available, and shelters and safe houses must be places of protection and, moreover, places of healing. I am proud to say that Malta has made great progress, over the decades, in this regard. Above all, it is critical to nurture a transformation in the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that condone or perpetuate violence against women. Awareness-raising campaigns, the mobilisation of community action, and educational programmes for children and adults, all have a role to play, in replacing structures of violence and oppression with a culture of equality, of equity, of solidarity and of peace”, President Coleiro Preca said.

“Let us continue, to create circles of engagement at every level of society, to prevent all forms of violence against women.”

In conclusion, she said that men and boys are essential partners in gender equality and equity, and in the building of respectful relationships across society. She added that everyone should speak in one united voice ‘to vociferously call for our political authorities, to increase their action’, and said that a powerful message needs to be sent, across Europe and the world – that no girl should fear for her life simply because she is a girl.

Source: Government of Malta