Kudos must go to the Malta Football Association and the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society for the joint campaign they launched this week against gender-based violence, a scourge that all too often is swept under the carpet.
It is initiatives such as this #StopGenderViolence campaign that warrant praise and highlighting even though there are so many other issues hitting the news headlines these days. Budget measures and party electoral campaigns, after all, matter very little to the thousands of woman who suffer abuse at the hands of their lesser halves.
The initiative, which is being spearheaded by the President, aims to bring the message to as wide an audience as possible. And since its launch earlier this week, a promotional video featuring some of the country’s top footballers – with the message that there are no winners in gender-based violence, only losers – has already been viewed thousands of times, and we are hoping for thousands more views over the days to come.
It is at once a sad and a reassuring fact that the number of reported cases of domestic violence has skyrocketed from 450 in 2008 to 1,272 last year – a whopping 183 per cent increase. Such an increase may appear shocking at first glance but it also gives hope that it is attributable to the fact that women are becoming more empowered, more aware of their rights and less willing to just suffer in silence.
Along with this campaign, the ball will keep rolling next month as the world commemorates the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Also known as White Ribbon Day, 25 November is a day for solidarity with female victims of domestic violence, a pervasive and often-silent form of abuse – silent for the simple reason that so many women still suffer every day in silence, trapped in a way of life that demeans their very existence.
The ongoing campaign and the White Ribbon Day is about those women who yearn not for a boardroom position but to merely be in a position in which abuse in all its heinous forms – physical, psychological and emotional – is no longer the order of each and every day.
Tragically, there are so many voiceless women who simply settle for such treatment because they do not know any different. They resign themselves to their fate because they have seen such behaviour handed down from generation to generation. But this generation, with the heightened awareness that this day and age provides, must be the generation in which this is all brought to an abrupt end.
Recent research has revealed that at least one in four Maltese women have experienced violence at least once in their lives, and that at least half of those have suffered sustained abuse. But, gladly, reports of domestic abuse appear to have been coming more to the fore lately. And the reason for this is simple: women are becoming more empowered – more empowered to no longer tolerate that kind of treatment from their spouses or partners, and more empowered to stand up to their abusers.
But they must become more empowered still, to nip the problem in the bud, to call it quits when verbal abuse begins or when psychological abuse turns physical. Men in these situations must also learn that it takes a man to admit they have a problem and to seek help. And spotting that problem is equally simple: if you abuse anyone on any level, you have a problem – plain and simple.
The introduction of divorce legislation has provided a ray of hope for many women who had found themselves in such circumstances. Many more abused women now know that they are not chained for life to an abuser, that there is a way out, and that the state can no longer force her to remain in that relationship, unable to close that nasty chapter of their lives and turn over a new leaf.
However, more, much more, needs to be done.
And our own message to accompany the current campaign is a call for more women to take control of their own lives, to take action, to shake off the shackles of a life of abuse, and to stand up for their rights by taking concrete action to end the abuse before it becomes a lifetime habit.
All Rights Reserved, The Malta Independent on Sunday, Standard Publications Ltd