The government begs to differ on the points made in the article ‘Gender issues “ignored”’ (April 17).
It would have served readers better had the journalist verified the information she received from Anna Borg, as is normal journalistic practice.
It is also pertinent to point out that while Borg today holds the non-partisan role of lecturer at the Centre for Labour Studies at the University of Malta, she does have a partisan background that clearly informs her judgement.
For the reader’s benefit, Borg was a councillor, an electoral candidate and the secretary general for women within the Nationalist Party. Besides, while the PN was in government, she led the gender equality section within ETC.
Yet, despite all these high-level roles occupied by Borg in her past, there is little to show in terms of the results that were achieved for women during all those years. Indeed, the status of women hardly improved and, by the time Borg left her role, the percentage of women in the Maltese labour market was still one of the lowest in the EU. She now speaks about the gender pay gap, an issue the Prime Minister has publicly declared that the government is addressing.
The law introduced in 1976 by a Labour government makes it illegal for a woman to be paid less than a man performing work of equal value. We know, though, that, despite this law, reality remains a different story. That it why the gender pay gap is being addressed as a priority area by the current Labour government.
Other family-friendly measures and flexible working arrangements have facilitated the reconciliation of work and family life
Borg says that the gap “nearly tripled over four years”. She surely knows that this is because more women have now entered the labour market because this government has introduced measures that make it possible for them to do so. A matter which had been ignored by PN for decades and which, one could add, she failed at while leading the gender equality section within the ETC over several years.
Borg adds that gender issues in general are ignored. This when Malta, among other things, is lauded for the fact that it is the only EU member State which offers universal free-of-charge childcare. Not affordable childcare, as we used to ask for in the years of the Nationalist governments, and which we did not get, but completely free childcare for parents who are studying or working.
Other family-friendly measures and flexible working arrangements have facilitated the reconciliation of work and family life, especially for those with caring responsibilities.
Borg also fails to mention the maternity leave fund which this government introduced so that the potential for (illegal) discrimination at the point of entry is eliminated.
She also ignores the strategy and law on gender-based violence and domestic violence. The first Bill on violence against women was shelved for eight years by a Nationalist government after a Labour government had issued it in 1998.
Now we have finished the committee stage of the revised Bill, whereby our law is being upgraded in line with the Istanbul Convention. Together with this we have issued a strategy on gender-based and domestic violence.
Another point that escapes her is the setting up of the Consultative Council on Women’s Rights. It is the first time that a government has, in a systematic way, all the NGOs working in the field of women’s rights and political parties together. They now meet regularly to offer a critique to the government’s work in this area of policy and also to propose new initiatives.
The Equality Act, now in the final stages of consultation, will also expand the duties of the government to promote equality in all its work.
Once the Human Rights and Equality Act is in place and a robust independent Human Rights Commission is set up, the government looks forward to Borg’s support on this important initiative. This framework aims to provide victims with strong protections against any form of discrimination, including through the reversal of proof when they seek redress.
The current work on the electoral pledge to have all government boards composed of a minimum of 40 per cent of the under-represented sex and the ongoing review of the pensions framework to ensure it provides for full equality with regard to gender are only a fraction of the government’s work-in-progress in this field.
Finally, Borg’s attack on LGBTIQ equality exposes her lack of equality thinking. Equality is not a finite resource to be divided in shares for different groups.
There is enough equality for all of us and the government is working tirelessly to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their personal characteristics, are free from discrimination of any kind.
Paula Cauchi is government spokeswoman at the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.
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