In recent years, the Maltese islands have come a long way towards establishing equal rights for men and women. A key factor in this progress is the Government’s commitment to eradicating discrimination and abuse against women, highlighting human rights as a central issue in international fora, including the UN Security Council and the OSCE.
The 2023 Global Gender Gap Report illustrates Malta’s advancement over the previous year, showing an improvement in ranking to 70th up from 85th out of 146 countries. This shows that the country is committed to gender equality. However, despite these positive improvements, social attitudes and gender stereotypes continue to pose significant challenges that need to be addressed.
A significant issue is the dissemination of harmful stereotypes through media, particularly when public figures like Mark Camilleri – a historian, writer, blogger, and publisher – make negative remarks or suggest sexist policies. Camilleri’s recent online video, in which he implied that women in the Labour Party are chosen based on their looks, is a clear example of the kind of sexism that undermines women’s achievements and contributions. These kinds of statements not only insult women, but they also support the outdated notions that a woman’s success depends on her appearance or her sexual relationships with other people, not on her skills and abilities. In this society, women have to work harder than men to gain recognition and success.
The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women highlighted this issue during their 12-day visit to Malta in summer last year. While acknowledging Malta’s rapid progress in gender equality, they also pointed out the ongoing challenges in overcoming traditional gender roles. In fact, these ingrained social rules continue to create barriers for women, impacting their self-belief and ability to succeed.
To address these challenges, the Government has implemented various initiatives to incentivise women to join the workforce, participate in politics, and focus on their success. But, on the other hand, Malta must focus on educating and promoting human rights, as there is a need of a cultural shift to one where harmful comments and behaviours are not tolerated.
Such change is necessary for the next generation, especially Gen Z, who are less likely to put up with gender-based discrimination. The education system and the media play a crucial role in shaping societal attitudes. Malta can build a more fair and open society by making sure that these venues support equal rights for men and women and respect for all people.
Overall, Malta has made an admirable progress in addressing gender inequality, but more needs to be done to change societal attitudes and break down gender stereotypes. This requires combined effort from the Government, educational institutions, the media, and society to create an environment where gender equality is a lived reality.
Photo: Mart Production