Get serious about violence against women

As if the situation was not already dire enough for women in Malta, Equality Minister Helena Dalli has appointed ex-Super One reporter Simone Cini as Commissioner for Gender-based Violence whose only experience, by her own admission, is being “passionate about the subject”. That, and being a Labour puppet.

In a country where domestic violence severity is among the highest in Europe, where there have been five femicides in a year (including the assassination of a female journalist), and where women are frequently left vulnerable and unprotected by the legal system, the last thing we need is someone in charge who thinks that “over the years, I built a reputation of loving the subject matter in the media” is a suitable qualification for such a serious and vital role.

The news emerged as actor John Suda, in his 60s, got a suspended sentence for indecent violent assault. He was accused of locking a young actress in a room, making her strip and recite lines, before putting his penis in her mouth without her consent.

This man is a rapist under the Istanbul Convention (Malta ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2014), and yet he was only charged with violent indecent assault.

Simone Cini’s appointment shows that no matter how many women are killed, raped or abused, the government will prioritise party loyalty over anything else.

According to the harrowing testimony of the woman and the details of the case that have been published, he preyed on her, intimidated her, abused her, and then raped her and showed absolutely no remorse for his actions. It was only when the petrified young woman burst into tears that he finally unlocked the door and let her leave.

When questioned in court, he admitted that he used such methods regularly and had done so for over 30 years, testifying that he had produced literature and witnesses to prove he had used the method in classes on an international level.

“I had no intention whatsoever to make love to this woman. Nudity is an active part in drama and you have to train for it,” Mr Suda had explained, insisting further that he had only wanted “to see how cool she can stay in such situations”.

Suda even participated in a campaign against domestic violence.

The judge commented that the testimony of the victim was totally credible and that there was no reason to doubt her or to consider that she had given consent at any time. The court also believed that he had picked on her because she was “young, vulnerable, and malleable”, and that he had not ever conducted such sessions with men.

Yet, he was handed a suspended sentence rather than locked in a jail and the keys thrown away. He will not spend a single day in prison, he will not have to compensate anyone for the crimes he has committed, and realistically, once the media frenzy dies down, his life will not be impacted in any way. He will continue to mingle in cultural circles and retain his position as a veteran in the scene, and he will have more girls for ‘training’.

His suspended sentence should not allow him to do the same again… but what happens if the next young girl does not report the abuse? It’s not like the system makes that easy.

By handing down this paltry sentence, the court has made several very troubling statements to victims, offenders, and the public.

First, they have demonstrated that they do not believe sexual assault is a serious crime worthy of a serious punishment.

Second, they have shown that the repercussions of his abuse have little importance and that any emotional or psychological harm is of no importance, relevance or consequence.

Third, they have stated that the freedom and rights of Suda surpass the rights of this young woman to enjoy a life free from abuse, assault, and sexual violence.

Last but not least, they have sent a message to any past, present, or future offenders that the consequences for violating a woman against her will are so insignificant that if you have to weigh up the punishment vs the kick you get out of committing such offences – the kick far outweighs the consequences.

His suspended sentence should not allow him to do the same again… but what happens if the next young girl does not report the abuse?

This is just another of many recent examples of violence, violation, and sexual assault, that have been committed to women in Malta, and the perpetrator has received the sort of punishment that one would associate with not paying your parking tickets.

What sort of country does not care enough about its children, wives, daughters, and mothers, that it puts the freedom of a violent and predatory being over the well-being and safety of an innocent individual?

I would like to say that I am surprised to hear of the pathetic sentence handed out to Suda, but then I remember this is a country where the brutal assassination of a female journalist is celebrated, where female activists are called prostitutes, where pro choice women are sent rape threats, and where time and time again we are shown that the judicial system considers our pain and anguish as nothing more than a slight inconvenience.

What is going to have to happen in this country before gender-based violence is taken seriously? Cini’s appointment shows that no matter how many women are killed, raped or abused, the government will prioritise party loyalty over anything else. Then those who accept positions within government organise protests against domestic violence, taking centre stage in press photos when they know they are in positions that can influence those decisions.

More women will suffer, and more men will get away with it.


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