Domestic violence is a symptom, not a cause

Socioliogist and lecturer Angele Deguara argues that legislative changes, on their own, are not enough to eradicate deep-rooted patriarchal tendencies

Deguara argues that legislative changes, on their own, are not enough to eradicate deep-rooted patriarchal tendencies
Deguara argues that legislative changes, on their own, are not enough to eradicate deep-rooted patriarchal tendencies

Malta recently awoke to another case of a women murdered allegedly by her partner: the third case of femicide this year, and the 28th to occur in Malta since 1978. The statistics also seem to indicate a sharp increase in femicides over time. Nineteen of those murders took place after 2000. Ironically, this seems to indicate that the femicide rate has gone up, even as the country adopted new legislation to tackle the phenomenon. How do you account for this apparent surge in violence targeting women?

On a legal level, we have certainly taken huge steps forward since 2000 and in recent years. We have ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention [on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence], introduced heftier penalties, new gender equality laws, and so on. But at the risk of repeating a cliche, legislative changes, on their own, do not bring about equality. It is the mentality that needs to change. Legislative changes and policies do not necessarily change the traditional expectations attached to women in society: such as their role of being carers and nurturers above all else; or the fact that women have traditionally been sexualised, and it is assumed that they like being so. It could be that society has not managed to catch up with these legislative changes, and needs more time. As for the presumed increase in violence towards women, we have to be cautious. There does seem to be an increase, but this could be partly put down to more awareness, and less under-reporting. Femicide, on the other hand, is statistically easier to quantify. It has long been an issue, but yes, statistics do indicate an increase. Exactly why this is happening, however, is difficult to explain. From a sociological perspective, there are explanations for individual cases of violence and murder; but why it seems to be increasing is less certain. For one thing, it is not just femicide that has gone up; there has been an overall increase in murders across the board in Malta.

Read the full interview on the MaltaToday digital edition

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