Written by Martina Briffa
Whilst this year is coming to a close, it is safe to say that it has been one full of legislative advancements. Ranging from, data protection and iGaming, to more tangible matters such as gender-based domestic violence. Having been an issue for many years, both socially and legally this time it was the right moment to focus on tightening its strings and allowing for a higher quality of protection by means of the law. This amendment revamped Chapter 481 of the Laws of Malta entitled “The Domestic Violence Act” and it was not only monumental due to the need to improve the national situation but to ensure that Malta, after having ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2014 is compliant with it as well. This imperative amendment has made this possible.
The approach adopted by the legislator was clearly a holistic one and addressed the issue broadly rather than singling out the victim and being left isolated. Tables have now turned and the law crystallises the fact that the aggressor is the one compelled to leave the home and not the victim. This did not undermine the relevance of the domestic violence centres but rather continued to strengthen their cause. One must also see this as an amplification of the enshrined principle of the best interest of the child since it is a move that will not only strengthen the position of the victim but the wellbeing of children as well.
By increasing the punishment to 12 years and coupling it with the requirement of rehabilitation, the law proves that it does not aim at pointing fingers but rather to provide help to avoid further incidents of the same kind. By enhancing the strength of protection orders and allowing the police to proceed on matters on their own accord, the victim will not only be shielded but the court will reach the level of expediency it desires. Amendments to the criminal code also made a huge impact for the simple reason that the concept of moral damages was introduced in the matter. The law was always reluctant to set this in stone and the court has reflected the same attitude with some exceptions. This debut continues to put the victim on the forefront and take into account the affliction the victim encounters for a long time.
This must not be taken as the final step to the reformation of the situation but rather as the first fundamental step towards more awareness, coordination and empowerment that will continue to be reflected in the law.