Our IDAHO message with Malta Gay Rights Movement

The ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map (Index)1 for 2013 as well as the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) survey report clearly indicate that Malta has a long way to go before it can claim to provide equal rights and a safe environment for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

The ILGA-Europe Map provides an overview and comparison of the legal situation of the 47 Council of Europe member states based on legislation in the fields of equality and non-discrimination, family, bias motivated speech and violence, legal gender recognition, freedom of assembly, association and expression and asylum. The Map places Malta somewhere in the middle with a score of 35% where the highest, the UK scored 77% and the lowest, 7% was scored by Russia.

Malta’s position could shift drastically by this time next year should the government’s plans to introduce comprehensive Civil Union legislation at par with marriage and a new Gender Identity Bill translate to legal realities.

The FRA report sheds light on the social and human rights’ situation of LGBT people in the EU. Over half (51%) of Maltese respondents, just slightly above the EU average of 47% reported feeling discriminated against or harassed in the last 12 months on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Despite anti-discrimination legislation in employment 22% of Maltese respondents reported feeling discriminated against in the last 12 months when looking for a job and/or at work because of being LGBT. Clearly more needs to be done to raise awareness among the LGBT community about their rights, to encourage victims of discrimination to come forward, and to monitor and train employers to ensure the effectiveness of anti-discrimination legislation in this field.

35% of Maltese respondents reported feeling discriminated against in the last 12 months in areas other than employment because of being LGBT. This highlights the need for the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation outside the field of employment.

In the field of education, 91% of Maltese respondents reported having heard negative comments or having seen negative conduct because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT during their schooling before the age of 18. It is therefore not surprising that 63% of Maltese respondents “always” or “often” hid or disguised being LGBT during their schooling before the age of 18. The current discussions with the Ministry for Education and Employment and the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties to address LGBT issues in schools from an early age are therefore a welcome initiative.

Only 2% of Maltese respondents held that same-sex couples holding hands in public is very widespread compared to 82% for heterosexual couples. This indicates that same-sex couples continue to remain invisible and points towards a perception among the LGBT community that being out in public spaces continues to pose a risk of violence or harassment.

Gabi Calleja (MGRM) stated: ‘IDAHO is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and to raise awareness of the difficulties that the LGBT community continues to face in their day-to-day lives. I am hopeful that the political leadership being shown will lead to a significant step forward towards equality and respect of human rights.’

Neil Falzon (aditus foundation) further added: ‘IDAHO is the day we stress the importance of public attitudes and perceptions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.  The equal dignity of all human beings is not merely a principle that needs to be written in our laws, but a core value we must all actively uphold in our relations with everyone: friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues, and everyone else.’

1.ILGA-Europe is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association. The Rainbow Map can be accessed at: http://www.ilga-europe.org/home/publications/reports_and_other_materials/rainbow_europe