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)

aditus & Malta Gay Rights Movement applaud today’s MEP statement condemning homophobic laws

The Malta Gay Rights Movement welcomes the position taken by the Maltese MEP’s in support of a resolution to condemn homophobic laws and discrimination in Europe adopted by the European Parliament and supported by all the five mainstream political groups. The MGRM acknowledges the important role played by Simon Busuttil who led the negotiations on behalf of the EPP group to ensure a strong resolution. This was the first of its kind in this legislature to be co-signed by the EPP group.

In today’s resolution, the European Parliament “strongly condemns any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

The Parliament adopted its official position after a debate on Tuesday, where MEPs almost unanimously asked the European Commission and European governments to better protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The resolution particularly condemns recent laws or proposals in EU countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary) and Council of Europe Member States Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, making it a penal or criminal offence to talk positively about homosexuality in public. The resolution also calls for the mutual recognition of the effects of civil status documents when moving from one member state to another and calls on other member states that have not yet done so to introduce the means for legal recognition of same-sex couples.

The MGRM also praises the participation of David Casa in the video produced by the Intergroup on LGBT Rights on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia.

Gabi Calleja, coordinator of the MGRM stated: We look forward to the adoption of various pieces of legislation currently before parliament.

Neil Falzon, Director of aditus foundation, added: Whilst we particularly welcome the appeal for legislation recognising same-sex relationships, we strongly urge this to take the form of full marriage equality.  Anything below full equality falls short of guaranteeing respect for human dignity.”

aditus joins other local NGOs to condemn act of violence against a lesbian teenager

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and aditus strongly condemn the act of violence that took place in Hamrun against two young women on Friday 13th January as reported in the Sunday Times and would like to express their solidarity with the victims and their families.

In many countries, such an assault would be investigated as a hate crime but Malta has yet to extend hate crime legislation to include the grounds of homophobia and transphobia.

Violence on lesbian, gay and trans people is not an uncommon occurrence although most incidents do not get reported to the police or featured in newspapers. Trust in the police force is an essential factor in encouraging and enabling LGBT victims to come forward and report such crimes. For this reason, how the police react to this assault, also has an effect on the reporting of other similar incidents. We therefore hope that charges will be brought against the perpetrators and that the assault is treated with the seriousness it deserves.

We would also like to express our concern with regards to allegations made by the mother of the victim with regards to the difficulties and harassment experienced by the daughter in school when her sexual orientation became known, particularly as this seems to have involved inappropriate behaviour by teachers. We urge the Department of Educational Services to investigate such claims and reiterate once again the need to introduce clear policies and guidelines that protect LGBT students and staff from harassment and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Those LGBT people who have experienced similar incidents or require support are encouraged to contact MGRM on [email protected] or call the National Gay Helpline: on 9925 5559.

Gabi Calleja, coordinator of the MGRM stated: “This is a shocking act of violence that continues to affirm the dangers that the LGBT community faces in coming out.”

Neil Falzon, from aditus, added: “We’re further concerned at the girl’s current safety and hope that she is offered adequate protection from revictimisation, including during any criminal investigations and court proceedings.”

Joint press statement by aditus & Malta Gay Rights Movement on the correct transposition of the EU Freedom of Movement Directive

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and aditus acknowledge the positive step forward made by the Maltese Government in amending Maltese legislation to correctly reflect the requirements of the EU’s Freedom of Movement Directive although they regret that such a change from obviously discriminatory legislation only came about after infringement proceedings by the European Commission.

With this amendment EU nationals in a relationship with a third country national of the same sex, wishing to move to and reside in Malta should now have their entry facilitated. Being married or in a registered partnership should automatically qualify as a durable relationship duly attested for the purposes of the directive. Where no such formalisation of the relationship exists, other proof might be requested by the local authorities.

This is a step forward although it also creates an anomalous situation whereby relationships of Maltese citizens with a third country national of the same sex enjoy less protection than those of other EU nationals in the same situation moving to Malta. In other words, a South African national in a relationship with a Belgian citizen, would be allowed to enter, reside and work in Malta whereas the same person in a relationship with a Maltese citizen would not.

Gabi Calleja, coordinator of MGRM said: “This amendment is welcome but it in no way replaces the necessity for the introduction of comprehensive legislation recognising same-sex couples. It is regrettable that a number of same-sex couples are forced to leave Malta in order to sustain their relationship each year.” 

aditus Chairperson Dr. Neil Falzon added that “this is a clear example of how European Union membership may also imply strengthening the recognition and enforcement of fundamental human rights.”