The Maltese were “still in shock” following the recent crime of domestic violence which left a woman fighting for her life after her former partner stabbed her in the head with a screwdriver, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said yesterday.

She urged parliamentarians to “stand up against the scourge” which is gender violence.

The President was opening the 2014 Annual Conference of the European Network on Gender and Violence, organised by the University of Malta’s Department of Gender Studies. Taking place on the morrow of a horrific crime of domestic abuse, the three-day conference took on an even more important dimension, Ms Coleiro Preca said.

She urged other countries to open their doors to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, adding she was “eagerly waiting” to give her seal of approval to the law in Malta.

The first reading of the ratification Bill was presented last month.

Quoting from a recent survey published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Ms Coleiro Preca said that domestic violence all too often went unreported. The constraints included lack of resources, the fact that gender violence was often not given enough priority, that it was often treated as a one-time occurrence which required discreet intervention or else dismissed as either too complex or as a cultural problem which was not serious enough.

Gender violence, she continued, was one of the biggest threats to the physical and mental well-being of men, women and children.

The repercussions were also inherited – according to research, children who witnessed spousal assault were at a greater risk of depression, insecurity, low self-esteem, passivity and poor impulse control.

Also speaking at the conference’s opening, Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli said that violence against women was all about control, power and inequality.

Quoting the FRA survey, she said that 22 per cent of Maltese women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, 37 per cent of women experienced psychological violence by a partner and 50 per cent have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

“This is a tall order for us to address,” Dr Dalli said.

“As FRA pointed out, we need to review how the law in books compares with the law in practice.

“Please help us policy-makers to move forward in a concrete manner.”

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