I woke up to my Facebook timeline today calling for women to bring their “awesomeness” to a march in Valletta to mark Women’s Day. The message is the elimination of violence against women, and yet where was this movement in almost five months since Daphne’s Caruana Galizia’s assassination?
No amount of purple feathers and boas are going to make up for that silence. How can they justify such calls when they have ignored the assassination of one of their own? Their selective importance to issues shows this movement can never be one that breaks beyond the political confines of national discourse.
It is the women’s movement – if a genuine one existed – that should be driving the campaign for justice for a female journalist killed. Yet, they hold a march with a statement against gender violence without a single mention of her assassination.
Was she not a woman? What on earth could be holding these women back from saying her assassination was wrong, unless it was because they were embracing the government’s narrative that she was a partisan ‘hate blogger’?
It is the only explanation for their failure to take a stand on the assassination of one of their own. They are the first to point out the false justifications for gender violence and then they endorse that behaviour for Caruana Galizia through their silence.
They expect women to endorse their call when they themselves are selective in who they fight for – and the indication is that it is determined by political affiliation.
Their problem is that they regard her as a political opponent first, and a woman second. For those of us who have been fighting for women’s rights before women even woke up to the problem in Malta, this kind of selective campaigning does not fool anyone.
A conversation I had last year with Lara Dimitrijevic – one of the leaders of this movement – may shed some light. Few are aware that she is the daughter of former judge Philip Sciberras and a sister to lawyer Alex Sciberras, closely affiliated with the Labour Party in government. She is a founding partner of the family firm.
It was the morning after the announcement that I had joined the Nationalist Party (PN) to fight the campaign against corruption. My reasons for that have been explained. I was supposed to have a couple of weeks off before I started the new assignment, and yet I woke up to a Facebook post from photo journalist Darrin Zammit Lupi sharing a news item on the morning after pill and a cock-up response from the PN.
Zammit Lupi’s message said, “Caroline, you’d better hit the ground running”. He was right. This issue mattered and bridges needed to be built. So I contacted Dimitrijevic – someone I had spoken to years earlier (under a Nationalist administration) on the setting up of a women’s movement. I thought it was necessary then, as I do now.
Yet her reply to me that morning was that a discussion could not be held “considering [my] new position” within the PN. I immediately countered that having someone who understood the importance of the issue within a political party should be seen as an advantage. Any campaigning organisation worth its salt knows its job is to work with all contenders to get their agenda on the map.
My response was met with silence, which continued to be observed by members of this movement despite several attempts to reach out during the electoral campaign to understand the issues that mattered for women’s rights.
They preferred to continue criticising without any attempt whatsoever to engage. Thankfully, there were other serious female academics and activists that took on that job.
These women understood that it was important to get critical women’s rights issues in the electoral programme of any Party that may be elected rather than framing them within the Party of their own choosing. They were the ones to really understand the real frustrations of women and work to having them addressed irrespective of the political spectrum.
So now we are expected to wear some feathers and talk about gender violence. No. And it pains me to say this because these issues should not be controlled by a Party’s agenda. As women, we should not need to be put in the uncomfortable position of having to point out these things if a movement that truly aimed at protecting and furthering women’s rights existed.
It forces us to have to write on a movement that we should be supporting, but one that we cannot because of its hypocrisy.
It is the fate of every movement and organisation in the country that is not allowed to exist unless it is controlled by one of the two main political parties. There will be women from both political parties at the march – not because they equally believe in the cause but because they equally try to dominate it to fit their agenda.