On 12 July we filed a human rights application in Court, together with our Litigation Partners Mifsud and Mifsud Advocates, on behalf of 7 trans women currently inmates at Corradino Correctional Facility.
The 7 women are alleging that their experiences in Corradino amount to serious violations of their right to be protected from inhuman and degrading treatment, their right to a private life and their right to be free from discrimination.
Our application stresses the duty of Government to ensure the dignified treatment and protection of all inmates, with specific attention required for particular groups persons such as vulnerable groups.
This particular attention is also required in the context of assessments as to whether treatment amounts to inhuman and degrading under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution of Malta.
“Our application comes after years of battling with Government, demanding guarantees of the physical and psychological safety of our clients and repeatedly offering our support to facilitate this process.
The application is, in its essence, seeking justice for the humiliation suffered by these woman as a direct consequence of Government action.
Malta cannot wave the LGBTIQ flag, here and overseas, if it refuses to protect the most vulnerable and marginalised persons in the community.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director)
The case was filed against the Director of Prisons and of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.
On tomorrow’s annual commemoration of International Women’s Day, aditus foundation notes that whilst Malta has seen notable improvements through the adoption of legislation, policies and services attempting to secure equal access to all human rights, women in Malta continue to face a series of challenges effectively limiting their human rights enjoyment.
In this regard, aditus foundation strongly reiterates the serious concerns expressed in 2010 by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in its Concluding observations on Malta. The Committee urged Malta to ensure a national and comprehensive policy targeting stereotypical attitudes that treat women solely as mothers, wives and caregivers, undermining their equal dignity and status in other sectors of civic life.
Our concern regarding gender stereotyping is aggravated by the Committee’s underlining of its direct link with incidents of violence against women. We also fully support the Committee’s recommendation that Malta reclassifies rape and violent assault as Crimes against the Person (Title VIII, Criminal Code), instead of their present grouping under Crimes against the Peace and Honour of Families and against Morals (Title VII, Sub-title II, Criminal Code).
“Violence against women remains a serious problem of national importance. We are happy to note that Malta signed the Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’, but the Convention will only be relevant once it is ratified and incorporated in Maltese law.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director).
Together with the above, aditus foundation stresses that any measure seeking to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of women should do so with regard to all women. Transgender women remain outside the law’s protection when this fails to recognise them as women, and transgender girls face inhumane difficulties in exercising their right to education. Migrant and refugee women run the risk of becoming a socially marginalised group if they remain unable to access services supporting their integration and, where necessary, their physical and psychological rehabilitation. Double discrimination further exacerbates the situation of these women.
“International Women’s Day is a reminder to not only secure all rights for women, but to secure them for all women.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director).
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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Respect the right of transgender persons to effectively exercise their right to marry in accordance with their legally recognised gender;
- 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;
- 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.