Legislative and policy framework

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Maltese Constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution states that ‘the State shall promote the equal right of men and women to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and for this purpose shall take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination between the sexes by any person, organisation or enterprise; the State shall, in particular, aim at ensuring that women workers enjoy equal rights and the same wages for the same work as men.’[1]

Malta has a national law on gender equality: the Equality for Men and Women Act (2003).[2] The law primarily covers measures to combat discrimination and established the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality for Men and Women (NCPE), the independent body for the promotion of gender equality.

At present, Malta does not have a national strategy or action plan on gender equality in place but is currently preparing its first Gender Equality Mainstreaming Strategy and Action Plan. Though a public consultation to gather feedback from a wide range of actors in mid-2019 was carried out, the Strategy and Action Plan is still being developed.[3]

Malta has a policy commitment to gender mainstreaming as per OPM Circular 15/2000, which was reiterated in 2012, though this does not impose a legally binding obligation to carry out gender mainstreaming. It seeks to ensure that policies and practices are gender mainstreamed and the production of a consolidated yearly report on developments is produced by NCPE. The circular also contains the only legal and policy definition of ‘gender mainstreaming,’ which is defined as the ‘process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action and integrating them within the dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres.’[4]


Governmental equality bodies

Equality measures in Malta are the responsibility of the Minister for Equality, Research, and Innovation (MFER), which is a cabinet position. The portfolio of the Minister includes equality, along with other areas including civil liberties, minority rights, reforms, research and innovation, science and technology and the post-COVID-19 strategy.[5]

Under the MFER[6] is the Human Rights Directorate (HRD), which is the government’s equality body and part of the civil service. The HRD was set up in 2015 and became fully functional in 2017.

The HRD has been part of the MFER since 2021.[7]

The HRD is made up of three units: the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIGESC) Unit; the Gender Mainstreaming Unit; and the Intercultural and Anti-racism Unit. The Gender Mainstreaming Unit was established within the HRD in January 2019. The Gender Mainstreaming Unit serves as a coordinating body within the government, raises awareness of gender equality issues among the public and assists the government in policymaking, the development of services and community building.[8]

As of December 2021, the personnel resources of the HRD consisted of 25 employees who spent approximately 50-75 % of their time on gender equality issues. Two employees focus exclusively on gender equality with the rest focusing on gender equality along with other issues, such as anti-racism, human trafficking and LGBTIQ equality, in line with the mandate of the body.

Departments and Ministries regularly consult the HRD about new or existing policies, laws or programmes (in fields other than gender equality) which leads to relevant adjustments in 50-75 % of cases. There is also a regular system of reporting by HRD to the parliament.

Independent equality body

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) is the legally established independent equality body under Chapter 456 of the Laws of Malta (the Equality for Men and Women Act). The Act is dated 9 December 2003 and was amended by Legal Notice 427 of 2007 and Acts IV of 2009, IX of 2012, XVIII of 2014 and VII and XI of 2015.

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) Functions

  • To safeguard equality on the grounds of gender and other characteristics and eliminate discrimination between men and women
  • To update and monitor policies related to issues of equality
  • To liaise and coordinate between government departments and other agencies in the implementation of initiatives proposed by the Government or the Commission
  • To carry out general investigations to determine whether the provisions of the above Act are being complied with, investigate complaints, and provide support to persons who are victims of discrimination
  • To conduct independent surveys concerning discrimination and publish independent reports and recommendations on any issue relating to discrimination

The NCPE also has a significant reporting responsibility. Each year, the NCPE contacts the Permanent Secretaries in every ministry requesting a report from each department and entity on the measures taken and the progress achieved in the sphere of gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Each ministry then forwards its report to the NCPE for evaluation. The NCPE prepares an overall evaluation report which is submitted to the Permanent Secretary for Equality.

Regarding consultation of the independent body in policy areas other than gender equality, the NCPE’s role is limited as it primarily responds to open public consultations, although it is sometimes contacted before or after the publication of the public consultation. Policymakers are not bound to take the NCPE's feedback on board and, as such, its recommendations lead to adjustments being made in less than half of all cases.

Parliamentary body

There is no specific gender equality committee in parliament. Other committees may discuss gender-related issues on an ad-hoc basis, such as the Standing Committee on the Family (Kumitat Permanenti dwar il-Familja) which, for example, was given a presentation on Providing Mental Health Support to Victims of Gender Based Violence by the Migrant Women Association Malta during a meeting that took place in 2019.[9]

Consultation with civil society

Consultation with civil society takes place through the Consultative Council for Women’s Rights.[10] The Council was established in November 2017 and started its work in January 2018, although it does not have legal status. Its members are appointed from persons active in organisations working in the field of women's rights, typically NGOs and civil rights entities. The purpose of the Council is to advise the government on issues affecting women in Malta and to present policy proposals in the context of an ongoing dialogue with the Minister.[11]

Methods and tools

Note: the methods and tools listed under section this were the focus of EIGE's 2021 assessment. If certain methods and tools are not mentioned in this section, this does not necessarily mean that they are not used at all by Malta.

Gender impact assessment

Malta has little experience with gender mainstreaming methods and tools. Gender impact assessments are not currently used, and gender equality concerns are generally not integrated into evaluation objectives.

Gender budgeting

There is no legal obligation for gender budgeting and efforts to implement it remain at a nascent stage, although Ministries and departments do have a responsibility to allocate funds for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. Moreover, considerations by the Ministry for Finance at the budget preparatory stage include the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, as may be requested by the line ministries, amongst other various functions of government. The same applies to budget measures that are proposed by the line ministries each year.

Training and awareness-raising

Training is offered on an ad-hoc basis by the NCPE. For example, the NCPE offered training sessions dealing with ‘Gender Mainstreaming in Practice’ in March 2019.

Some measures have been taken to raise awareness among ministries; for example, the NCPE Commissioner was invited to deliver a presentation on gender mainstreaming in the public sector during a meeting of the Permanent Secretaries in 2021.

However, no measures are in place to ensure the use of gender-sensitive language within the government.

Gender statistics

The Malta Statistics Authority Act (2000) Article 10 states that the National Statistical Office shall collect information on gender issues, creating a strong legal basis for the development of gender statistics. Specifically, the Act states that it shall:

'… provide on an impartial basis, quantitative and representative information about the economic, demographic, gender issues, social and environmental situation in Malta.’[12]

The effectiveness of the legal basis is demonstrated by the fact that around three-quarters of datasets are estimated to be disaggregated by sex. Dissemination of statistics however is weaker: there is no website or part of a website dedicated to gender statistics.[13] Similarly, reports and publications specifically on gender statistics take place on an ad-hoc basis, though most outputs do include gender.[14]

Monitoring progress

Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action

This section analyses the scores achieved by Malta for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex.. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.

For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality, and taking into account only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Malta scored 6.0 out of a possible 12, below the EU average of 7.2. It scored particularly low on sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental gender equality body where it lost 4.0 points out of a maximum possible score of 5, because there is no overall national strategy or action plan in place, with 1.0 point gained for having a regular system of reporting by the governmental body to the parliament.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Malta scored an additional 1.5 points, out of a possible 3. It lost 1.0 point because the mandate of the independent gender equality body is gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas, rather than exclusively focused on gender equality. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 7.5 out of a possible 15, below the EU average of 9.1.

Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Malta scored 1.0 out of 2 points, which was the same as the EU average, because there were 10-25 employees in the governmental body working on gender equality. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Malta’s score was 0.5 but the EU average was slightly higher at 0.8 because there were 5-10 people employed to work on gender equality in the body. For both sub-indicators, the maximum 2 points was awarded where the number of employees was over 100 as an indication of the body being sufficiently resourced.

Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Malta scored 3.5 out of maximum possible 12, which was below the EU average of 5.1. Malta lost all 6 points available under sub-indicator H3c on the commitment to and use of methods and tools for gender mainstreaming. This is because there is no obligation to undertake an ex-ante gender impact assessment or gender budgeting and no awareness-raising activities on the importance of gender-sensitive language or gender equality training.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Malta scored 3.5 points out of a maximum of 14, which was also lower than the EU average of 5.4. Under sub-indicator H3d, Malta lost both available points because the independent gender equality body is only consulted by department or ministries about the gender impact of new or existing policies, law or programmes in a few cases.

For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Malta scored 2.5 points out of a possible 6, below the EU average of 3.4. It scored the maximum of 2 points for sub-indicator H4a on government commitment to the production of statistics disaggregated by sex because there is a legal obligation for the national statistical office to collect data disaggregated by sex. However, it lost 3.5 points, out of a maximum of 4, for sub-indicator H4c on the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex, as there is no website or section of a website devoted to gender statistics to facilitate dissemination.