The geographic smallness of my beloved home country may give the impression that we Maltese are simple folk living under the idyllic and peaceful aura of our warm climate. This can’t be even more further from the truth as the Maltese reality is divided by social and political camps and riddled with complex contradictions which make us nothing less than a very interesting nation.
When it comes to women we have some problems. Apart from the fact that abortion is still a criminal act both for the woman and the medic executing it, Malta also has alarming rates of femicide, sexual abuse and a justice system that has constantly failed to protect women. Look, we are a young Republic, and as a nation are barely through our adolescence, so abortion, a subject which needs some basic philosophy and science in order to be understood is still lagging in the popular conscience. We are also a bit religious.
But we are also patriarchal and a little bit misogynistic. One of the reasons why Daphne Caruana Galizia was hated, for example, was simply because she was a woman and took no shit from men (and women alike). While men who flaunt their criminal behaviour both in business and politics get applauded by misguided crowds, mischievous women are looked down upon as a menace to society.
And still, the biggest female menace to society is yet to come. The threat of genocidal abortion looms over our sanctimonious society. Last month in May, Marlene Farrugia did the unexpected and presented a private member’s bill in Parliament to decriminalise abortion. It was a shocker because abortion is still a taboo in Malta and women who decide to have one are looked down upon with extreme hatred and disgust. Surprisingly, the biggest gasp, outright shock and horror to Marlene Farrugia’s bill was expressed not by the conservatives but by the liberals, the Labour Party and the pseudo-intellectuals whose response was an unequivocal, how dare you? How dare you Marlene Farrugia propose a solution to this problem and effect it so sharply and timely while we are still cowardly discussing between each other and behind closed doors the theory of our eventual indented action, sometime down the line in future history, to solve this so complex conundrum ourselves? How dare you Marlene Farrugia do what we were not able to do ourselves. And you even did it without our permission or even notice or warning! How dare you?
And it is understandable why both men and women alike are hating on Marlene for doing what she did as if they are surprised that lightning can also come from a clear sky. Marlene Farrugia intimidates many of her compatriots because she is a self-made woman who stands on her own without needing the backing of anyone at all. She can do whatever she likes and no one can do anything about it. And doing what is most unexpected, by herself, what all the merry men and women couldn’t even do together in unison, is of course so much unwarranted. The Labour Party’s reaction was a textbook case of saying I was deeply offended without saying I have been offended. In this way, Farrugia ruined the narrative which was supposed to have been inscribed by the powers that be that the Labour Party was advancing the rights of women through the parliament gender quotas (which will work exclusive to Labour and PN, btw). It’s like Farrugia has finally created the much-needed rupture in the plot of a story where something that is supposed to happen never actually happens or at least happens only much later with an excessively nauseating delay. It’s like Godot eventually shows up when he is supposed to never show up in the first place or a twist in the plot of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse where a sudden miraculous intervention cuts the story short and finally takes the Ramsays to the Lighthouse. How dare you? This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Let’s be honest. I’m not the one who likes pretentions, but this should not be confused with the women without pretensions Musumeci-misogyny type. What I mean is I don’t like to lie and scribble gymnastic-bullshit. Many of the Labour MPs and MEPs who have pretensions and made declarations against abortion are actually pro-choice and they should be called out for their cowardice. Politics is becoming tiring with all the delusional and cryptic nonsense going on. You, dear Alex Saliba, are one of them. Much of a socialist you have been during your teenage years at college and changed you have not, other than that you have become a politician who reads from a stupid script instead of speaking your true beliefs and principles. You are all a bunch of cowards to me, but maybe I have too many pretensions.
And trust the intellectuals to articulate with some overly-stretched -rational the unwarranted and futile action of Marlene’s. This chorus justifies like a broken record the cowardice of our politicians in order to downgrade the historic break which Marlene Farrugia has just made in Maltese politics and Maltese history. First, it was Carmen Sammut, the University’s pro-rector who recently showed her true colours by complaining publicly on Facebook against Lovin Malta for supposedly breaking the news of Keith Schembri’s health complications before the news reached his family first (the claim was immediately denied by Lovin Malta). Sammut declared, and I kid you not, that Farrugia did not do any favours to women by presenting this bill. Take it, women. Sit there in your role as the obedient gender until your royal highness decides when it is appropriate to defend your rights.
Following Sammut it was Dominic Fenech’s turn, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Head of the History Department to pour cold-water on Farrugia’s proposal. Bizarrely, he took credit for having already decriminalised abortion along with the Labour Party in the 1980s and what Farrugia was actually proposing was only depenalisation. Fenech’s argument is that given a motion was passed by the Labour Party Annual General Conference in 1980 which declared that no woman should go to prison for having an abortion, the Labour Government of today is bound by this resolution and therefore decriminalisation is already in place. When I pointed out to him the absurdity of this argument, and that in fact there have been cases of women spending time in jail for having an abortion under a Labour government, his response was this:
Hilarious considering the Freudian slip, but the audacity of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts to speak to his former student like that is rooted in a collective frustration amongst the intellectual rent-seeking class for having been outdone by a lone woman in the bidding of what a progressive force is supposed to do.
Fenech’s argument is legally absurd and shows outright ignorance on how the legal process actually works. Does Fenech even listen to himself when he speaks? All well and good for him having been a major participant in a motion in the 1980s, but it does literally nothing to the execution and enforcement of the law itself by the authorities – both back then and especially today. What Fenech should have said instead, is that the 1980 motion only serves to show how distant and discordant the Labour Party has become with its inherent principles: not only with regards to women but also with regards to many other aspects such as social justice, corruption and the environment. Sure, a political party needs to change, and surely the economic policies of today should be very different from back then, but on a human rights issue, one would hope that the Labour Party would have made a step forward rather than a step back. And let’s not also forget that a motion passed in 1980 by a political party, will change nothing how a magistrate or a judge or a police commissioner will interpret the law. Having said the obvious, let’s conclude.
Maltese politics has become a tiring charade of smoke and mirrors but at what cost? . Old habits die hard, and it will take new generations to stifle out the toxicity and the rent-seeking which is assaulting politics and society in general. However, I believe that that’s what is happening today. Most of the support to Marlene Farrugia’s act is coming from the younger generations who apart from agreeing with her bill in principle, are tired of a political discourse based on misinformation and fairy tales. Those who used to be lions have turned into sheep while lambs are growing into wolves.