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Helena Dalli

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Helena Dalli
Dalli in 2023
European Commissioner for Equality
Assumed office
1 December 2019
PresidentUrsula von der Leyen
Preceded byVěra Jourová (Justice and Consumers)
Minister for European Affairs and Equality
In office
9 June 2017 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterJoseph Muscat
Preceded byLouis Grech
Succeeded byEdward Zammit Lewis
Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties
In office
13 March 2013 – 5 June 2017
Prime MinisterJoseph Muscat
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Helena Abela

(1962-09-29) 29 September 1962 (age 61)
Żabbar, Malta
Political partyLabour Party
Other political
Party of European Socialists
EducationUniversity of Nottingham
University of Malta

Helena Dalli (born Helena Abela, 29 September 1962) is a Maltese politician serving as European Commissioner for Equality since 1 December 2019. She is a member of the Labour Party.[1][2]


Parliamentary Secretary[edit]

In 1996, Dalli was elected to the Parliament of Malta and appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Women's Rights in the Office of the Prime Minister. She was re-elected during the five subsequent elections, making her the second most elected woman in Maltese political history.[3]

During her two-year tenure, she put forwards a Childcare Bill to provide for regulations of childcare services both in the public and the private sector, and took care of the drafting of the Gender Equality Bill with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme.[4] Dalli also launched Malta's first white paper on domestic violence.[5]


During the 2013–2017 legislature, Dr Dalli was Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties. Under her direction, the Maltese Government introduced several laws and policies to strengthen the equality and human rights framework, including a Civil Unions Act as well as the widening of the anti-discrimination protections in the Maltese constitution to cover the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.[6][7][8]

In April 2015, she presented a law establishing wide-ranging rights for transgender and intersex people. The Gender Identity Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act provides for a right to gender identity and the recognition of one's self-determined gender on official documents, and recognises a right to bodily integrity and physical autonomy.[9]

During the same legislature, Dalli introduced a national maternity leave fund to which all employers contribute regardless of the gender of their employees, in order to protect women against discrimination during the recruitment process.[10]

Dalli submitting Malta's instrument of accession to OP-CEDAW at the UN Headquarters in March 2019

In 2015, Helena Dalli led the process for the establishment of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which the UN now commemorates annually on 11 February.[11][12] Dalli was also instrumental for the restructuring of the Malta Medicines Authority.

Dalli was re-elected from two districts in the 2017 general election. At the start of the new session, she presented to Parliament a Bill to introduce marriage equality (same-sex marriage).[13][14] Dalli's work in the equality sector led Malta to become the country affording the best legal protection and equality for LGBTIQ people. As a result, Malta has retained the top spot of the ILGA-Europe country index for four consecutive years.[15][16]

Call for a European Commission follow-up to the LGBTI List of Actions (December 2018)

During both terms as a Minister, Dalli worked to enhance Malta's human rights and equality structures and their independence, as well as dialogue with civil society and social partners.[17][18] In view of this, she set up a Human Rights and Equality Directorate that is responsible for Government policy on gender equality and gender mainstreaming, LGBTIQ equality, and migrant integration and anti-racism.[19] She also set up an LGBTIQ Consultative Council, a Consultative Council for Women's Rights and a Forum on Integration Affairs.[20][21][22] Following a long and multi-step consultation process, she presented an Equality Bill and a Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill that aim to instil the highest standards in terms of anti-discrimination and equality in all spheres of life, and the setting up of an independent national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles of the United Nations and European Union equality directives.[23][24]

Following the 2019 European elections, Dalli was nominated by the government of Prime Minister Muscat as Malta's candidate for the subsequent European Commission.[25]


In 2019, Dalli was made the European Commissioner for Equality in the von der Leyen Commission. Her Portfolio included leading on EU implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, developing a European 'gender strategy' to further improve women's rights by improving pay transparency and ensuring implementation of the Women on Boards Directive,[26] ensuring implementation of the Work-Life Balance Directive, exploring the addition of 'violence against women' to the list of EU crimes and supporting EU accession to the Istanbul Convention. [27]

In November 2021, Dalli launched internal EU guidelines for inclusive language, including saying "holiday season" instead of Christmas, avoiding gendered phrases such as "ladies and gentlemen", and to use names such as "Malika and Julio" for fictional people rather than "Maria and John". The guidelines were criticised by politicians including Antonio Tajani of Forza Italia and former Democratic Party Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, and were eventually withdrawn.[28][29] Pope Francis compared the measures to anti-Christian dictatorships in revolutionary France, Nazi Germany and the communist world.[30]

In the same month, French ministers Marlène Schiappa and Clément Beaune criticised Dalli for meeting representatives of FEMYSO France considers to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.[31][32][33]


Dalli holds a PhD in Political Sociology from the University of Nottingham,[34] and lectures in Economic and Political Sociology, Public Policy, and Sociology of Law at the University of Malta.[35]


Helena Dalli in Zielona Góra, 2022.

In 2016, Dalli was the first Maltese nominee and winner of the European Diversity Award for her work in human rights and equality at the local and international level.[36][37]

In 2019, Dalli was presented, on behalf of Malta, with the Diversa Internacional award by the Spanish Association of Lawyers and Lawyers against Hate Crimes, in recognition of her work for equality on both the domestic and international fronts.[38]

In 2021, Dalli was presented an award by the Spanish Government in recognition of the robustness of the EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025. Months later, she received an award on behalf of the European Commission from PROUD, an organisation working for LGBTIQ equality in Czechia, for the same strategy.


  • Uwe Jens Rudolf: Historical Dictionary of Malta, 3rd edition, Rowman & Littlefield 2018, ISBN 978-1-5381-1917-4, page 75 (Online)


  1. ^ "Malta nominates Helena Dalli as its next commissioner". Politico (24/7/19). 24 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Movers and Shakers – 26 July 2019". The Parliament Magazine (26/7/2019). 29 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Helena Dalli". Parliament of Malta. 26 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Parliament starts debating gender equality bill". The Times of Malta (5/11/2002). 5 November 2002.
  5. ^ "Inter-ministerial strategy needed to combat gender-based and domestic violence – Minister Dalli". The Malta Independent (7/11/2017).
  6. ^ Laws of Malta (April 2014), Civil Unions Act (ACT No. IX of 2014)
  7. ^ Laws of Malta (April 2014), Constitution of Malta(Amendment) Act (ACT No. X of 2014)
  8. ^ "Malta: Douze Points! First Constitution in Europe to Protect Gender Identity". Transgender Europe (15/4/14). Transgender Europe. 15 April 2014.
  9. ^ Henley, John (7 December 2016). "Malta becomes first European country to ban 'gay cure' therapy". The Guardian (7/12/2016).
  10. ^ "Maternity leave fund set up to 'eliminate gender discrimination'". MaltaToday (21/7/2015).
  11. ^ "From Dream to Reality". International Day of Women and Girls in Science – February 11.
  12. ^ "Interview with Dr. Helena Dalli". International Day of Women and Girls in Science – February 11 (3/8/2019). 3 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Malta Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage". The New York Times. 12 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Malta's Parliament Approves Gay Marriage". Deutsche Welle (12/07/2017).
  15. ^ "Group ranks best and worst countries in Europe for LGBTI rights". CNN (14/5/2019). 14 May 2019.
  16. ^ "The best and worst countries to be LGBT in Europe". Yahoo! News UK (2/7/2019). 2 July 2019.
  17. ^ "Towards a Robust Human Rights and Equality Framework". Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.
  18. ^ "Towards the Establishment of the Human Rights and Equality Commission: White Paper" (PDF). Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (10/12/2014).
  19. ^ "Domestic violence is a cancer on society, Helena Dalli says". MaltaToday (26/10/2018).
  20. ^ "LGBTIQ Consultative Council". Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.
  21. ^ "Consultative Council for Women's Rights". Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.
  22. ^ "Forum for Integration Affairs". Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.
  23. ^ Laws of Malta (July 2019), Equality Act (Bill 96 of 2019)
  24. ^ Laws of Malta (July 2019), The Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (Bill 97 of 2019)
  25. ^ "Malta nominates Helena Dalli as its next commissioner". Politico (24/07/2019). Politico Europe. 24 July 2019.
  26. ^ "Dalli promises to unblock women on boards directive". EU Observer. EU Observer. 3 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Helena Dalli". European Commission. European Commission. 31 October 2019.
  28. ^ Vella, Matthew (30 November 2021). "It's not true that you can't use your name if it's Maria... a misrepresented Brussels language guide". Malta Today. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  29. ^ Boffey, Daniel (30 November 2021). "EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  30. ^ "Pope compares EU to dictatorship after Helena Dalli's language rules". The Times of Malta. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  31. ^ Darmanin, Jules; de la Baume, Maia (22 November 2021). "French government protests EU commissioner meeting with 'islamist' NGO". Politico. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  32. ^ Harley, Nicky (23 November 2021). "EU commissioner faces French rebuke for meeting Muslim Brotherhood-linked group". The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  33. ^ "L'Europe doit «faire son travail» contre les associations islamistes, juge Marlène Schiappa" [Europe must "do its work" against Islamist associations, judges Marlène Schiappa]. Le Parisien (in French). 22 November 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  34. ^ "Helena Dalli". European Commission. November 14, 2019.
  35. ^ "Visiting Staff". University of Malta.
  36. ^ "Helena Dalli wins Hero of the Year Award". Times of Malta (30/11/2016). 30 November 2016.
  37. ^ "European Diversity Awards Winners". Vercida (1/12/2016).
  38. ^ "Malta's leadership in promoting equality recognised by Spanish LGBTI association". MaltaToday (10/06/2019).

External links[edit]

Media related to Helena Dalli at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Maltese European Commissioner