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

The LGBTI Consultative Council is launched today…and we’re part of it!

This evening, the new Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Dr. Helena Dalli, launched the LGBTI Consultative Council.  The Council will be a formal consultation mechanism where NGOs working in LGBTI issues will be able to raise and discuss concerns, legal & policy recommendations & other relevant matters.

In acknowledgement of the work aditus foundation has been doing with Malta’s LGBTI communities, the Minister has invited us to be members of this Council.  We’re greatly looking forward to the Council’s meetings, where we hope to be able to make a real difference in the levels of human rights access by LGBTI persons in Malta.

Watch an interview our Director, Neil, gave to iNews (in Maltese).


Joint statement on Joanne Cassar Case

The MGRM and aditus foundation welcome the Maltese Government’s decision to drop its objection to Joanne Cassar’s claim to the right to marry.

The case of Joanne Cassar versus Malta is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where she is claiming that when Malta prevented her from marrying her fiancée, her fundamental human rights were violated.

The right of transgender persons to marry was firmly established in a preceding case dating back to 2002 – Christine Goodwin vs. the United Kingdom – where the ECtHR held that it “finds no justification for barring the transsexual from enjoying the right to marry under any circumstances.”

We also welcome the Government’s pledge to promptly enact the required changes to the Civil Code to ensure recognition of transgender as persons of the acquired sex for all intents and purposes, including marriage.

In addition we reiterate the need for a comprehensive Gender Identity Bill, as proposed by MGRM in 2010, that would facilitate the gender recognition of transgender persons and safeguard their fundamental human rights, including the right to respect for privacy and family life as established in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Download it here.

For further information:

Dr. Neil Falzon (aditus foundation Director) – 99892191

Gabi Calleja (MGRM Coordinator) – 99250943

The Cohabitation Bill is a zero-starting point

Following months of meetings with the Maltese Government to discuss possible forms of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, aditus foundation can only describe the Bill presented today as a regrettable failure.  This is based on the zero-starting point presented through the Bill which, although being offered as a tool to recognise same-sex relationships, effectively does nothing to alter the present barren legal scenario.

Having carefully analysed the Bill and its possible implications, aditus wishes to highlight that most of the ‘rights’ created therein are already accessible today by any person.  Anyone, including a homosexual couple, may approach any notary and regulate issues such as shared or common property and payments to any other person that could easily be termed ‘maintenance’.

The Bill is over-burdened with references to financial elements, reducing same-sex relationships to quasi-commercial transactions between two persons, and several issues are either unclear or the result of unrefined legal drafting.

For example, it is not clear whether eligibility for registration of a civil cohabitation partnership requires fulfillment of the ‘cohabitant’ criteria found in Article 3, namely the requirement of cohabitation of two years or more where children are involved or of five years in other cases.  If this interpretation were correct, then same-sex couples would be required to firstly cohabit for the required number of years in order to be able to register their relationships.  Marriage contains no such requirement.

It is also unclear whether the criteria in Article 3(1)(a) or (b) – relating to the duration of the relationship – are sufficient for registration of civil cohabitation partnerships or whether the criteria in Article 3(2) – relating to other circumstances – will also be taken into account at the registration stage.

We also cannot understand why same-sex couples are required to have received legal advice as a precondition to registration, when a far more serious contract as is marriage does not require any form or such advice, training or even basic information.

We were also expecting the Bill to ensure that third-country nationals in same-sex relationships with Maltese nationals would be granted permission to enter, stay and work in Malta.  The Bill makes no mention of this element, and neither of the need to guarantee the freedom of movement rights of EU nationals moving to Malta through recognition of marriages or partnerships validly contracted in other EU Member States.

These points seem to reflect the Bill’s overall policy assumptions, namely that same-sex relationships are ‘special’ relationships, often riddled with abuse and exploitation and thereby requiring protection for weaker parties.

For all of the above reasons, aditus foundation is extremely disappointed at the Bill’s achievement in being an absolute zero-starting point that promotes the inherent unequal dignity of human beings.

aditus reiterates the argumentation and recommendations made in MGRM’s Position Paper on marriage Equality, authored by aditus Director Dr. Neil Falzon as MGRM’s Legal Advisor, essentially strongly advocating for the fullest legal recognition of same-sex relationships through marriage equality.

“Regrettably, despite genuine efforts at constructive dialogue with the Minister, the Bill is largely a disappointing and failed attempt to engage with Malta’s gay community.  

This is absolutely not the result of dialogue, at least not as we understand the term.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director)

Protecting the rights of minority groups is a human rights success for everyone

aditus foundation is extremely happy to welcome the recent amendments brought about to Maltese law in terms of offering better protection to lesbians, gays, and transgender persons living in Malta.  The amendments add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of circumstances aggravating certain types of crimes, and also to the legal mandate of Malta’s national equality body, the Nation Council for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE).

“The authorities are sending clear messages.  Violent acts against gays, lesbians or transgender men or women will not be tolerated and will be severely punished.  Employers who discriminate on these grounds will now be held accountable and may face serious repercussions.  Of course, the main strength of these amendments is their potential to prevent these violent acts and discriminatory practices”Dr. Neil Falzon (aditus foundation Director).

These amendments are in many ways a human rights success for all of Malta, since they reaffirm the equal dignity of all persons.  They are a success for the united voice of the non-governmental organisations calling for their adoption.

“Ultimately, they are a tribute to all persons who were and are bullied, beaten, insulted, ostracised and rebuked simply due to their non-conformity to public expectations and norms.”