Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted such crimes. The crime of rape carries a sentence of up to nine years in prison with increased penalties in aggravated circumstances. Through August, nine persons faced rape charges in the courts.
The law treats domestic violence as an aggravating circumstance of other crimes such as bodily harm, rape, and harassment, and the government generally enforced the laws prohibiting it. Penalties ranged from three months to 20 years in prison. Through August, 845 persons were arraigned on domestic violence charges. Several cases were still pending; penalties for the determined cases consisted of various degrees of punishments. Some NGOs and victims’ advocates asserted that domestic violence remained underreported, primarily because of women’s concerns that law enforcement personnel would not believe or protect them. According to the NGO Victim Support Malta, however, an increasing number of victims took action and reported abuse. The government conducted training for police officers to increase awareness about domestic violence and identify potential cases.
A special police unit and several voluntary organizations provided support to victims of domestic violence and all forms of gender-based violence. A hotline assisted victims of abuse through counseling and shelter referrals. The Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity was responsible for a government-supported shelter for women and children. The government also provided financial support to other shelters, including those operated by the Roman Catholic Church.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is unlawful and punishable by a 2,329-euro ($2,560) fine, six months’ imprisonment, or both. As of August, the NCPE had not received any complaints alleging sexual harassment during the year. The NCPE commissioner, however, was investigating three sexual harassment claims from 2015.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognizes the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The UN Population Division estimated that 61 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Redress in the courts is available for sexual discrimination. Gender discrimination in employment existed.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Parents may pass citizenship to their children, although the law allows transmission of citizenship by a grandparent or other relative in certain circumstances. The government registered births immediately.
Child Abuse: In 2015 the Child Protection Service of Appogg, the social welfare services arm of the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity, received 874 referrals of possibly abused children, compared with 821 in 2014. The service’s caseload for 2015 was 1,607, up from 1,374 the previous year, and included 821 new and reopened cases. Through September, six persons were convicted of sexual abuse of minors. Between January and August, police received 47 reports of child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or courts.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities generally enforced the law. The production of child pornography is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment of one to five years and up to nine years if aggravated. Possession of child pornography is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment not exceeding three years; four if aggravated. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Statutory rape is punishable by three to nine years in prison and up to 20 years for aggravated acts.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community numbered approximately 120 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits both the public and private sectors from discriminating against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services, and the government effectively enforced these provisions. The law requires accessibility to buildings, information, and communication. While the government made efforts to ensure accessibility, many historical buildings remained inaccessible due to limited structural adaptability.
The population included more than 10,000 persons of Arab, African, and East European origin. There were periodic media reports that owners of some bars and discos discouraged or prohibited darker-skinned persons, particularly of African or Arab origin, from entering their establishments.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics.
In July, seven transgender female inmates filed a constitutional case against the director of prisoners and the minister of home affairs. They claimed that prison officials effectively forced them to stay inside the men’s prison block after informing them that they would lose their jobs, which were limited in scope based on gender, if they transferred the inmates to the women’s section. Authorities later initiated a policy of allowing transgender and intersex inmates to be assigned to sections that match the gender shown on their legal documents.
In December parliament unanimously approved the “Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Bill,” criminalizing any practice which aims to “change or repress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”