Social Wellbeing faculty warns more action needed to tackle gender violence

Gender-motivated killings are an assault on human rights, the faculty states

A vigil was held on Tuesday in memory of murder victim Paulina Dembska
A vigil was held on Tuesday in memory of murder victim Paulina Dembska

The University of Malta's Faculty for Social Wellbeing warned that more action is needed to tackle gender-based violence after Paulina Dembska was killed in a Sliema garden on Sunday morning.

"The killing of Paulina Dembska, a Polish student living in Malta, is a harsh reminder that today, in the 21st century, there is still an urgent need to build equality between men and women in the Maltese islands and to eradicate the gender stereotypes which are the source of inequality and gender based violence, including femicide," the faculty said in a statement.

The Faculty said it stands in solidarity with those calling for an end to the gender-motivated killing of women and those spotlighting the issue nationally.

"Furthermore, the Faculty over the past years, has dedicated an increasing number of resources which have been channelled by our various departments to further understand and effectively address the scourge of gender-based violence in Maltese society."

However, the faculty warned that more needs to be done. 

"It is critical that all relevant authorities commit themselves to ensure meaningful change in the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone or perpetuate violence against women in Malta."

"Awareness-raising, community mobilisation, educational programmes, and support for children and young people are essential to ensure that the needs of potential victims and the threat of potential perpetrators are not falling on deaf ears or slipping through the net of existing services."

Paulina Dembska was murdered at Sliema’s Independence Garden early on Sunday, 2 January – the first femicide of the year.

Her lifeless body was found just below the popular promenade by a passer-by just before 6:30am.

The murder suspect was picked up by police outside the Carmelite parish church after raising a commotion inside the church, going up to the altar, overturning chairs and allegedly making threats before some men pulled him out and called the police. 

Aquilina had a history of online sexual harassment. After his arrest, many women posted screenshots of unsolicited messages of a sexual nature from Aquilina when he was a teenager.

"Gender-motivated killings of women are an assault on universal human rights and seriously undermine human dignity. Preventing all forms of violence against women requires the engagement of all segments of society, most especially the sustained participation of men and boys as partners in building more respectful relationships throughout our Maltese society," the faculty reiterated.