The Nationalist Party wants femicide to be codified as a specific criminal offence, arguing that doing so will facilitate research and monitoring into gender-based murders.

 In a statement on Saturday, the party said that law enforcement requires a “reform in the way femicides are investigated from the start”, with investigating officers and prosecutors requiring specialised training to handle such cases.

Controversy over femicide, its legal definition and ramifications has been sparked by the murder of Polish student Paulina Dembska, who was raped and killed in a public garden in Sliema on January 2.

Women’s rights activists have said described the murder as a 'femicide' – the murder of a woman because of her gender – and said this should be made a crime in its own right. 

Critics of that idea, including Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, have noted that homicide already carries the harshest possible jail sentence in Maltese law – life imprisonment.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis speaking about femicide last week. Video: Jonathan Borg

The police said that they do not believe that Abner Aquilina, who stands accused of Dembska's murder, killed the student because of her sex. 

In its statement, the PN acknowledged that femicide cannot be an aggravating offence, given the potential life sentence homicide carries, but insisted that there were still merits to making femicide its own criminal offence.

“Having femicide included as a specific offence facilitates monitoring and studying femicide and finding adequate measures for its prevention, quick response, adequate investigation and the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators,” it argued.

“Legislative recognition of the problem will indicate the seriousness of the issue and will provide the impetus for future progress in the investigation of the crimes,” it said, arguing that the government was failing to recognise that gender-based crimes “are a real problem”.  

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us