Comments by a consultant gynaecologist that a number of rape claims are made up and that he has not come across a single pregnancy as a result of rape have outraged human rights activists.
Ivan Galea, who took part in a students’ debate on abortion at the University of Malta, initially came under fire by activist Francesca Fenech Conti for allegedly claiming that rape cases in Malta were fake and that women claim they were raped for insurance purposes.
Posting in the Facebook group ‘Women for Women’, she said his comments were “hilarious and scary” at the same time.
“If some of our doctors who worked in hospital spoke this way, then it was really worrying,” she added.
However, Dr Galea claimed he had either been misunderstood or those making the allegations were deliberately twisting the facts.
In a Facebook post, he said that in his 21 years of practising obstetrics, he had never come across a pregnancy from rape.
“This doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but it must be rare… It is a fact that not all claims of rape are real. That is why a civilised society like ours has institutions in place to investigate claims of rape.”
However, Lara Dimitrijevic, who heads the Women’s Rights Foundation and also took part in the debate, confirmed Dr Galea’s comments about insurance claims.
She knew of at least seven women who had fallen pregnant, were raped by their partners to intentionally impregnate them, or as a couple of them put it in court, ‘ġibta red hot biex toqgħod’ (I turned her on so she remains obedient) or ‘dik posta fil-forn bħal tal-ħobż’ (her place is in an oven like a loaf of bread).
“So with all due respect, as a professional, especially one coming from the medical field, to come out publicly with such comments is nothing but a disgrace and an insult to women,” she wrote on Facebook.
Academic and activist Andrea Dibben also took exception to the doctor’s comments about insurance claims as well as his doubts as to why women were afraid to report rape.
She said that when she was running a shelter for homeless women between 2003 and 2005 as a social worker, she had met five women who got pregnant from rape or incest.
“I also know of two women from my personal circle. So no, it is not rare, you are just living in a bubble of privilege.”
Dr Dibben also flagged the fact that Malta has the highest rate in Europe (47%) of people who believe that ”women make up claims of rape”. Malta also the highest rate (20%) of people in Europe who believe rape is justified if the victim was wearing sexy or provocative clothes.
No, it is not rare. You are just living in a bubble of privilege
Other social media users commented that if the doctor made his opinions public this way, pregnant patients would be reluctant to tell him they were rape victims for fear of judgement.
His comments on Facebook that rape victims should file a police report and that they had no reason to fear any repercussions, angered people even further.
Democratic Party MEP candidate Cami Appelgren noted that as victim of “close relationship abuse” his words were a reminder of why women feared reporting.
The comments are not being aired by KSU
Although the students’ council put up a video of the debate, the footage omits Dr Galea’s alleged claims.
KSU President Carla Galea told Times of Malta student organisations had agreed beforehand that only the panel discussion would be made public.
Dr Galea, she said, was speaking ahead of the debate, during “an intervention by medical experts” invited by KSU from the pro-life and pro-choice camps.
Meanwhile, noting that she had never called him a monster as he had implied, Ms Fenech Conti told Times of Malta it was very disappointing that a debate where doctors were specifically invited to speak the truth and mention medical facts had not been recorded.
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