Malta’s accession to the European Union (EU) in 2004 has undoubtedly increased the need for legislation and policies to address equality issues, although the country had already made important commitments to gender equality at the international level. For example, in 1991 the country had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Malta created a network of focal points on gender equality in government departments as an integral part of a mainstreaming policy.
Between 1996 and 1998, in preparation for EU accession, the Department of Women’s Rights was set up with a parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. The acquis communitaire was set as a ‘road map’ for Maltese economic and social policymaking. A number of different actions were taken by the Maltese government to address gender-mainstreaming implementation and to guarantee equal treatment for women and men in all policies and measures. For example, Government policy on gender mainstreaming as per Circular 24/2000 specifies that government departments and public sector organisations are responsible for the implementation of gender-equality policies and gender mainstreaming. This commitment was reiterated in 2012, through Circular 15/2012, which reasserted the responsibility of government departments and public sector organisations to implement gender-equality policies and gender mainstreaming, and to submit a brief annual report to the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) on the measures taken.
In Malta, responsibility for gender equality rests at the equality body National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE). Set up in 2004, it carries out independent functions and is also entrusted with overseeing the implementation of equality legislation and proposing its amendments to the relevant minister when necessary; updating policies related to issues of equality for men and women; and liaising with government entities accordingly. Currently, the minister responsible for gender equality is the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties.
Laws and policies
The 2003 Equality for Men and Women Act (EMWA) seeks to promote equality between women and men, ensuring that no person shall be discriminated against because of his or her sex, and provides for the establishment of the NCPE. Moreover, Government policy on gender mainstreaming is specified in two circulars issued by the Office of the Prime in 2000 and 2012 respectively. These policy documents instruct all public officials within government departments and public sector organisations to assume responsibility for the implementation of gender-equality policies and gender mainstreaming and to consider them as key objectives in their performance reviews.
Methods and tools
Gender-mainstreaming methods, mainly research and capacity-building, are available. These methods are implemented by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE).