Activists marched down Republic Street to the courts in Valletta on Wednesday evening to the beat of drums, calling for an end to the systemic and institutional injustices women face.
Once in front of the courts, opposite Daphne Caruana Galiazia’s memorial, activists put on masks of political figures as they ignored women playing dead at their feet.
“The state failed us,” “Nagħmlu ħoss kontra sessiżmu jboss,” “Bernice will not be forgotten,” signs read as they marched towards the courts. “Please don’t show my face,” one holder asked as he feared certain peoples’ reactions to his presence at the march.
“If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it then?” another sign read.
“Justice delayed, justice denied,” the group of over 100-strong activists chanted as they walked through the city’s entrance. “We’re tired and fed up,” they continued to shout.
As the crowd walked down the city’s main street, a few onlookers mocked activists as they danced to the rattle of drums. “We support them,” a group of teenage Italian boys said when asked why they were dancing.
The women’s day march fell under the theme of ‘Women United Against Injustice’, a topic chosen in the name of all the women who are forced to seek help from institutions that fail to help.
While the march did not focus on a single individual, many who attended named Bernice Cassar, Pelin Kaya and Paulina Dembska as key women who paid the ultimate price at the hands of institutional injustice.
Mother-of-two Bernice Cassar had filed multiple police reports against her ex-husband Roderick before she was shot dead as she drove to work on November 22. Days before she was killed, her lawyer pleaded with police to take action against her ex-huband for breaching a protection order.
More recently, Pelin Kaya was killed after she was hit by a car and then allegedly assaulted on January 18 in the early hours of the morning after celebrating her birthday. Accused of her murder, Jeremi Camilleri told police he wanted "to be famous" and that he was "a psychopath and proud" as officers attempted to arrest him.
In both cases, the accused are pleading not guilty.
Once protestors made it to the courts, activists masquerading as Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard were waiting for them.
The crowd gathered around them as women holding tombstones lay in front of the nonchalant political figures. The men sipped imaginary tea from mugs as ‘You are the Problem Here’ blasted over speakers.
“Next time, it could be me,” the women shouted as they woke from their eternal slumber.
Following the demonstration, sociologist Angela Deguara took the mic and addressed the crowd.
“We will continue to gather and protest until things change,” she said.
Woman’s day is not just for women, Deguara said, but also a day for those who identify as a woman or as non-binary who are fighting against oppression to unify and speak out against injustice.
“It is a patriarchal society, dominated by men in every sense of the word and where women are disadvantaged, despised, humiliated, catcalled, raped, abused, exploited and even assassinated.
“How can you be surprised that women are still not equal, that we still don’t have the same opportunities as men in public life, that she’s objectified,” she questioned.
“It would not be the first time women are humiliated by questions such as what they were wearing or how many partners they have had when they are a victim of rape or sexual harassment, as if it is their fault”.
Why, she questioned, do women have to pay the ultimate price as they gather every year on March 8 but nothing changes and laws of equality remain in “limbo”.
“How long are we going to wait?”
The march was organised by Moviment Graffitti together with MGRM, Doctors for Choice, Women’s Rights Foundation and Young Progressive Beings.
The march was also supported by: aditus, Malta Women’s Lobby, Merħba Bik, Women for Women, YMCA, Migrant Women Association Malta, Integra, ARC, IVY, Dance Beyond Borders, Allejanza Konta l=Faqar, MAWB, Men Against Violent, and Għajjejt u Xbajt.