aditus’ training on LGBTI Asylum issues

On 26th September we gave the training to a number of NGOs working in LGBTI issues, on the transposition of EU’s Asylum and Victim’s Rights Directives, as a part of aditus’ Stakeholder Information Sessions project.

During the first part of the training, Neil (our Director) provided basic information on the asylum Directives and explained how they can be applied to LGBTI asylum-seekers.  The Directives identify the standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection.  For a better understanding of different legal statuses, Neil clarified the distinction between a refugee, asylum-seeker and any other migrant.  Together with the representatives from LGBTI-supporting organisations we discussed the criteria and the process of recognition of refugees, which do consider sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis to recognise international protection needs, particularly under the ‘recast’ (new) EU Directives.

In the second part of the training we focused on the Victims’ Rights Directive, which seeks to promote the principle of non-discrimination and sets out minimum rights for victims in criminal proceedings that take place in the EU.  Neil explained the issues of victims’ support and protection from an LGBTI perspective and highlighted the importance of training for police services, officials and lawyers to support them in dealing with LGBTI victims in a respectful, sensitive, professional and non-discriminatory manner.

We all agreed that the proper transposition of the Directives into Maltese legislation is necessary and we will be monitoring the implementation process through advocacy and capacity-building activities.

Big thanks to the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties for offering its premises for the training.


‘Malta’s IVF law reinforces inequalities’ – Joint press statement with Malta Gay Rights Movement

The ‘Embryo Protection Act’ is an unashamedly homophobic law insofar as it denies access to medical services purely on the basis of sexual orientation.  It is also a violation of human dignity by introducing unreasonable and unwarranted intrusions into physical integrity, in its criminalization of egg or sperm donation.

aditus foundation and Malta Gay Rights Movement take the opportunity of yesterday’s opening of the tendering process for IVF services to reiterate MGRM’s earlier criticism of the IVF law (available here).

Under the IVF law, medically assisted procreation is only open to “prospective parents”, defined in a discriminatory manner as “two persons of the opposite sex who are united in marriage, or…who are in a stable relationship with each other.”  In practice, this means that same-sex couples will be automatically denied access to medical services on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Furthermore, the Act imposes severe criminal sanctions against any person who donates his sperm or her eggs outside of the IVF law framework.  aditus foundation and MGRM question the relationship between embryo protection and the fundamental rights of all persons to be protected from violations of their physical and mental integrity, and to decide on core matters such as their private and family lives.

“We question the compliance of Malta’s IVF law with human rights law, since it seems to ignore legislation and jurisprudence unequivocally stating that all rights and obligations accessible by different-sex couples should be equally accessible and enjoyable by same-sex couples.” Gabi Calleja, MGRM Coordinator.

“We fail to understand why the government is concerned with what men do with their own sperm, and what women do with their own eggs.  As long as no third parties are negatively affected, these are decisions for individuals to take, and not for the state to criminalise.”  Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director.

aditus foundation and MGRM strongly urge the competent authorities to truly respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all persons irrespective of their sexual orientation and to embrace a more realistic, understanding and indiscriminate notion of ‘family’.  In particular, the two organisations urge a thorough revision of the Embryo Protection Act to remove all discriminatory provisions and to bring it in line with human rights standards.

Download the statement here.

aditus1

MGRM


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


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


Joint statement by aditus & Malta Gay Rights Movement on new Maltese legislation affecting transgender persons

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) and aditus welcome the announcement, reported in the Malta Independent of 02/11/2011 that an amendment to legislation is to be introduced that will eliminate one of the human rights violations currently taking place in respect of transgender persons.  This will do away with the current practice of appointing a court expert to verify irreversible sex reassignment.

However, this falls far short of the comprehensive legislative changes required in order to meet current best practice in this field as clearly outlined in the report ‘A Proposed Gender Identity Act for Malta’ presented by MGRM in December 2010.  The proposed ‘Gender Identity Act’ which was tabled in parliament by MP Evarist Bartolo has still not yet been put on parliament’s agenda.

The main proposals contained in the MGRM document largely reflect those recommended in a recent study published by the Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg entitled ‘Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Europe’.  These include the following:

  1. Grant legal recognition for the preferred gender of transgender persons and develop expeditious and transparent procedures for changing the name and sex of a transgender person on birth certificates, civil registers, identity cards, passports, educational certificates and other similar documents;
  2. Abolish sterilisation and other compulsory medical treatment which may seriously impair the autonomy, health or well-being of the individual, as necessary requirements for the legal recognition of a transgender person’s preferred gender;
  3. Remove the requirement of being unmarried, or divorce for already married persons, as a necessary condition for the legal recognition of a transgender person’s preferred gender;
  4. Respect the right of transgender persons to effectively exercise their right to marry in accordance with their legally recognised gender;
  5. Review any requirements of a diagnosis of mental disorder for accessing transgender health care in view of eliminating obstacles to the effective enjoyment, by transgender persons, of the rights to self-determination and the highest attainable standard of health;
  6. Make sex reassignment procedures, such as hormone treatment, surgery and psychological support, accessible to transgender persons subject to informed consent and ensure that they are reimbursed by health insurance in acknowledgement of their life-saving potential.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and aditus therefore urge the Minister for Justice to take the current proposal tabled by MP Evarist Bartolo as the basis for the development of any legislative change as this meets the human rights standards as understood in the Yogyakarta Principles and the Hammarberg paper.  Additionally, any amendments to the proposed bill should be discussed with MGRM and aditus as the sole credible interlocutors for trans people.