Respecting the human stories

This is our right to reply to an opinion piece appearing in The Times of Malta on 23 March. Our opinion is published in the Times of Malta on 30 March.

In his opinion piece of March 23 entitled ‘Self-respecting’, Steve Pace makes a number of incorrect assertions on the relationship between abortion and fundamental human rights. He frames his piece as two parallel narratives.

One narrative talks of migrants stranded at sea and aditus foundation’s related efforts at securing their safety. In parallel, Pace positions embryos and foetuses and our participation in the Voice for Choice Malta movement. He questions aditus’ respectability, alleging that we are supporting human tragedy and making a “gross parody” of fundamental human rights. He concludes, grandly, that “it is a well-known fact that abortion is not a fundamental human right”. Our clarification will shed light on the relationship between abortion and fundamental human rights and the rationale of our call to  decriminalise it.

First, the exercise of comparing migrants to foetuses fails to honour either and belittles their complexity. Urging Malta to allow the disembarkation of rescued migrants rests on the combined authority of the right to life, the duty of shipmasters to rescue any person in distress at sea and the right to be protected from the atrocities perpetrated in Libya against African migrants. Our advocacy on migration, with no fewer than 63 other local non-governmental organisations, targets interests that are purely political within a national and European context that is increasingly reluctant to abide by clear international legal obligations.

Discussions on decriminalising the termination of pregnancy are essentially about extremely personal and sensitive situations, and appeal to a very different set of rights, emotions and policy considerations. Comparing the two – or rather exploiting one to score points for the other – at best minimises human experience and at worst disregards it entirely.

For us, a human rights NGO, abortion has a strong foundation in international human rights law and social justice. While there might not be a clearly formulated fundamental human right to abortion, it has repeatedly been read into other rights: to life, health, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, freedom from gender-based discrimination, privacy and family life. To be clear, this ‘reading’ is a common exercise in human rights interpretation, where the actual text is broad and vague in order to allow for those shifts in interpretation that necessarily follow from our increased understanding of how people, societies and communities work. For example, there is no scripted fundamental human right granting marriage to same-sex couples, yet it is has been read into the broader right to marry and found a family. It is thanks to the very broad formulation of the prohibition of torture that courts have been able to include in it heinous State practices such as waterboarding, isolation and mock executions.

Additionally, we are keen to stress an aspect that is often forgotten in discussions on abortion, especially when judgemental fingers are wagged at ‘evil and selfish’ women. On many occasions, many of the women needing safe abortion services are actually children. Malta’s stubborn refusal to openly talk about sex, reproductive health and contraception often punishes those with the least access to support, information and other preventative measures. Acknowledging this serious gap in Malta’s human rights framework in relation to children, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed its concern at our exception-free penalisation of girls and women who choose abortion, often exposing them to life-threatening situations. The Committee has repeatedly underlined that, to protect girls from early marriages and pregnancies, States are required to secure access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, contraception and safe abortion.

aditus foundation’s position on abortion is a nuanced one, and it would have been more honest of Pace to base his critique on our actual position rather than saying we mock life and set our own standards on its worth. Contrary to Pace’s allegations, our position is inspired by human rights standards and also the human stories we encounter in our work: women who are told the embryo inside them will die in days or weeks, women raped in Libyan detention centres, girls repeatedly abused by fathers, uncles and brothers. In these situations, we believe that the woman’s set of human rights definitely overrides the rights of the embryo – whatever one believes the embryo’s status to be. Today, Malta’s laws describe these girls and women as criminals. It brings shame and prevents them from seeking the guidance and support they need.

aditus foundation has always proudly done its utmost to urge Malta to extend its protection to people and communities denied their fundamental human rights. While we find Pace’s critique distasteful in its tone and imagery, we are nonetheless thankful for this opportunity to clarify the little-known fact that yes, access to safe abortion is a fundamental human right.


Voice for Choice – L-Għażla Tagħha

aditus foundation is one of the 6 civil society organisations which formed the first pro-choice coalition in Malta launched on the 8th March 2019. The coalition was set-up to lobby for the decriminalisation of abortion and to raise awareness in the community to combat the stigma that surrounds abortion.

Press Release – 8th March 2019

Voice for Choice is the first Maltese pro-choice coalition made up of civil society organisations and individuals who together want to campaign for reproductive rights and justice in Malta. We are grassroot organisations that represent various sectors of our society, as well as individuals that are passionate about reproductive health and rights.

Abortion continues to remain criminalised in Malta in all circumstances. We know that the reality is that women in Malta are still seeking and having abortions. However, this comes at both a financial and a social cost, as well as at the cost of their physical and mental health, as these women continue to live in fear, stigma and shame in our society.

In the last decades Malta has made great strides to be a more inclusive society. It is therefore time that the laws related to abortion follow suit so as to reflect the reality of people’s lives. We are here to ensure that all pregnant persons, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, beliefs or age are supported, respected and protected whatever their choices.

Voice for Choice today launches its campaign to:

  • strive for a society based on equal respect and justice free from discrimination for all genders and minority groups;
  • ensure that barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights are removed;
  • promote equality in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • remove shame and stigma related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We intend to achieve these goals through campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion and advocating for laws that ensure that the health of pregnant people is protected and in line with international human rights standards through proper abortion care.

We will further strive to educate and debunk the myths surrounding abortion by providing factual information about sexual and reproductive health and rights.

To this aim, we will be organising activities to raise awareness in the community and combat the stigma and shame surrounding abortion, and providing up to date information to support evidence-based policy. Starting tomorrow, we will roll out our first social media campaign entitled “30 abortion myths: Get the facts straight’’.

Voice for choice will also be organising an annual event to commemorate ‘International Safe Abortion Day’ on the 28 September of each year.

Contact details:
Email: vfcmalta@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/V4CMalta/

Founders:

Women’s Rights Foundation
Moviment Graffitti
Malta Humanist Association
Integra Foundation
aditus foundation
Men Against Violence

Individual co-founders:

Francesca Fenech Conti and Jelena Dimke, admins Women for Women
Liza Caruana-Finkel

Doctors for Choice Malta officially joined the coalition on the 9 May 2019.


Making Malta Home! NGO Response to the Launch of the Specific Residence Authorisation policy

We are happy to welcome the Specific Residence Authorisation policy, launched today by the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security and the Parliamentary Secretariat for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes. The policy will ensure the security, stability and dignity for those migrants who, throughout the years, have invested their energies and dreams into making Malta their home.

As announced today, the new policy will be accessible by current holders of the Temporary Humanitarian Protection N status. It will also be accessible by persons who cannot be returned to their countries of origin and who, during their time in Malta, have demonstrated integration efforts.

The SRA policy will therefore offer eligible persons the possibility to make the significant shift from a temporary – and therefore insecure – situation to one that embraces the principles of transparency and predictability. Importantly, the SRA policy will also contribute towards combating migrant poverty and the anxiety that inevitably ensues from living in an eternal limbo.

Essentially, we appreciate that the SRA policy is a clear acknowledgement by the relevant authorities of the personal, social, financial and other contributions made by so many migrants in Malta.

In doing so, Malta is taking a bold step towards fostering a truly inclusive society.

We are looking forward to the implementation of the new policy, and offer our support to ensure its smooth operation.

Finally, we thank the Ministry for the consultation process that permitted the ‘This is Home’ campaign to share its views in a frank and open manner. We reiterate our support of this form of engagement, and look forward to other similar interactions with the Ministry on matters of mutual concern.


‘This is Home’ campaign is composed of:

aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, The Critical Institute, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Gender Liberation, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Maltese-Serbian Community, MGRM, Migrant Women Association in Malta, Moroccan Community in Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, the People for Change Foundation, the Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, SKOP, Solidarity with Migrants Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Sudanese Community, Third Country National Support Network, Women’s Rights Foundation.

 


Press Conference ‘White Paper on Rent Regulation: A Positive Step Forward’

On 20 October an NGO coalition published its reaction to Government’s proposals to reform Malta’s private rent sector. Led by Moviment Graffitti, the coalition followed up recommendations it present earlier this year. aditus foundation is part of this coalition.

We believe in the need to reiterate that access to decent housing is a fundamental human right.

As such, it requires State intervention to respect, protect and fulfil it.

If you’re not clear what this right actually means or implies, you can check out this useful Fact Sheet.

A key recommendation made is:

“Although the White Paper focuses on a framework regulating private rent contracts, it also contains a number of interesting proposals with regards to the supply of units for rent. We agree with the White Paper’s notion that the housing supply should not depend entirely on the private sector.

Government and the third sector have an important role in supplying affordable housing. Besides social housing, the state and non-profit setups should build units to be leased at affordable prices whilst still generating rental revenue. This would increase the housing stock, increase state income and increase affordability.

We see no benefits from a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) setup for such projects.”


The NGO coalition is composed of:

Moviment Graffitti, Alleanza Kontra il-Faqar, Malta Tenant Support, Women’s Rights Foundation, Forum Komunita’ Bormliża, Malta Humanists Association, The Millennium Chapel, Żminijietna – Voice of the Left, aditus Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Malta Gay Rights Movement, The Critical Institute, Spark 15, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, Kummissjoni Ġustizzja u Paċi, SOS Malta, African Media Association Malta, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust, Integra Foundation u Third World Group Malta



We endorse the position paper on sexual and reproductive health and rights

aditus foundation welcomes the position paper Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights published by the Women’s Rights Foundation earlier this year.

The position paper adopts a rights-based approach to a topic that for too long has remained a national taboo, yet which continues to affect thousands of women, and men, in Malta.

Sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental human rights and, as such, merit to be respected, protected and fulfilled. The paper’s recommendations urge Malta to reflect on the status quo, with a viewing to engaging in an effective and inclusive reform process.

With human rights at the core of our activities, we fully endorse and support the recommendations made by the Women’s Rights Foundation, and look forward to participating in the forthcoming national discussion.