There were two sets of laws proposed in separate announcements today. The government announced a new law criminalising virginity testing. The law makes it illegal to force a woman to test whether she’s ever had vaginal intercourse. Virginity tests are a horrible thing. They legitimise brutal violation of a woman’s dignity and excuse flagrant discrimination.
If you didn’t think this was a major problem that needed urgent solving, there’s some justification for your ignorance of the problem, such as it is. The government is not aware virginity testing has ever happened in Malta, nor do they know of anyone who has suffered any form of discrimination because of one. They woke up one morning and said today is a good day to ban an activity that as far as they know no one thought of doing.
They could have banned the ritual sacrifice of cows, farting in church, or playing 1970s heavy rock backwards. Virginity testing must have sounded sexier.
Now, I suppose, we can spend some time recognising the government’s intent here. It was summed up by junior minister Rebecca Buttigieg who described the law as “the first important step to show that this government does not tolerate sexual violence against women.” Did she say, this was a first step? I would have thought there have been other important steps to show the government did not tolerate sexual violence against women before this. Rape has been illegal for a while, along with several other forms of sexual violence that have, at least at law, not been tolerated.
You know, there’s a deeper irony in this.
The government has before now objected to the criminalisation of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and association in a mafia organisation. They voted down draft laws including these crimes in the criminal code, claiming that people who wanted to have these laws adopted had the partisan motivation of making Malta look like a place that had a mafia problem.
By that logic does the government hope to represent Malta as a place with a rampant problem with virginity testing?
The other law proposed today was put forward by the shadow justice minister Karol Aquilina and the association of law students. They are proposing to relax restrictions on the right to go to court to contest government decisions, particularly decisions taken by the attorney general not to prosecute someone. Till now you need to show you’re the victim of a crime, but who’s Joseph Muscat’s victim’s swindle with the public hospitals? Everyone, which as the law on challenging decisions not to prosecute would have it, practically means no one.
The PN’s draft law, drawn up with the law students, is indeed a law that addresses a problem that we do have. The fact that the AG’s decisions to cover up crimes is practically beyond anyone’s scrutiny or review is a gap recorded by the Venice Commission in 2018 and something the government has been trying to avoid filling because while they’re in power, it is their decisions that could be subjected to judicial review if the law proposed by the opposition and law students makes it through Parliament.
It won’t, of course, make it through Parliament. Think about it. The government does not want people to ask if someone else is a virgin. Why would the government give anyone the right at law to challenge their doubtful claims of purity?