Sunday, 7 December 2008

Times: Discrimination against gays up, survey shows - 8% claim they were beaten or attacked in the past two years

7.12.8 by Christian Peregin

Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has increased in recent years as this community becomes more visible, according to a survey carried out by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

More than 74 per cent of the 150 respondents said they would emigrate given the chance, and 67 per cent of these listed discrimination as a key factor in this decision.

Eight per cent said they had been beaten or attacked in the past two years because of their sexual orientation and half of these said it happened more than once. Two-thirds were young women.

Many gave accounts of the violence, including a girl under 18 who said she was attacked many times for being lesbian.

"It happened mostly at school. One incident happened in Valletta with a female local warden. I reported her and was told that nothing of the sort will ever happen again."

Another young woman explained how she and her girlfriend were abused by a group of men:

"They stopped the car in the middle of the street and came out to attack us. One man pulled up my girlfriend's skirt and touched her. I pushed them and hit them in self-defence. All of this happened in front of the police station but nobody came to our rescue."

More than one in three respondents said they had been subjected to psychological harassment, including insults, humiliation, gossip, threats, exclusion and hate messages. Of these, 45 per cent said they had been harassed by friends or acquaintances, 35 per cent by fellow students and 37 per cent by co-workers. Some said they were even psychologically taunted by family members.

"At home, harassment is constant... I am not allowed to be alone with children. At work, I experience a few incidents per month. I pay the price for being honest about myself," said one of the lesbians aged between 26 and 40.

The workplace was the most commonly cited location of harassment, with one in six respondents reporting incidents in the past two years.

Many victims of violent and psychological harassment said they sought psychological help as a consequence.

"I had to go to therapy after the abuse I endured from my father. I had to grow up and be tough at an early age to defend myself. Being gay does not mean being a sissy and I wanted to make sure that whoever picked on me learned that," one young man said.

Only 23 per cent of respondents who were in a relationship during the past two years did not feel the need to conceal their relationship to avoid violence or harassment.

Forty-one per cent avoided kissing or holding hands in public, while 35 per cent concealed their relationship at all times. Most of those who did not feel the need to conceal their relationship were under 26.

Most of the ones who concealed their relationship had a tertiary level of education, supporting the belief that gay people with a higher social standing tend to do this for fear of jeopardising their position.

Eleven per cent of respondents said they had been harassed at an educational institution.

Bullying at schools emerged as a problem area, with more than half of those under 18 saying that they were bullied by fellow students and in all cases at least three times. A third of these recalled more than 10 such incidents.

More than 45 per cent of those who were open with representatives of faith organisations felt discriminated against.

The survey found that discrimination shows no signs of slowing down, and the Malta Gay Rights Movement will therefore be following it up with a campaign against harassment.

"This study shows that discrimination towards LGBTs is alive and well, despite any efforts to combat it," a spokesman said. The survey will be published in the coming weeks.

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