Wednesday, 8 April 2009

MaltaToday: Gay rights movement barred from schools, EU agency says

5.4.9 by James Debono

The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency has denounced the barring of the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) from schools and from disseminating leaflets and educational materials on lesbian, gay, bi and transsexual issues (LGBT) in Maltese schools.

In a report on gay discrimination, the FRA said that: “in Malta, where the Catholic Church administers around one-third of the schools, the MGRM has reportedly been barred from disseminating leaflets of education materials that present LGBT issues.”

But a spokesperson for the Maltese curia told MaltaToday the Church’s secretariat for Catholic education had not rejected the MGRM’s request to visit Church schools as part of its campaign, but simply asked for more details.

“The Secretariat asked the representative to provide more details on the scope and content of the proposed project. The secretariat did not receive a response in this regard,” Charles Buttigieg said.

MGRM’s coordinator Gabi Calleja however claims the movement was barred from disseminating leaflets and information on the national gay helpline to students in both government and Church schools way back in 2005.

Calleja also claims that former education minister Louis Galea did not permit MGRM to visit schools, but gave his go-ahead for MGRM to work with teachers and post-secondary school students.

In 2007, the EU Year for Equal Opportunities for All, MGRM also expressed its wish to conduct an awareness campaign and a survey on homophobic bullying in schools. “Once again access to both government and Church schools was denied and we could not publicise the survey among students.”

MGRM has now been asked to provide training to teachers of personal and social development during an in-service course to be held next September by the Education Division. It recently provided training to social workers and counsellors working with Church schools at their own request.

This year, MGRM was asked to provide talks to students attending the Naxxar Higher Secondary on credit on human rights.

And 13 and 14-year olds at the San Andrea private school also attended MGRM talks during Diversity Week.

But Calleja insists access to schools remains problematic. “This is further complicated in Church schools because of their position on same-sex relationships and sex outside marriage.”

However Curia spokesperson Charles Buttigieg said education in Church schools aimed at “the full development of the person”, and a formation that “rejects homophobia and encourages full respect to each and every person according to the dignity given to all of us by the Creator.”

According to a study by the MGRM, cited in the FRA report, many transgender students dropped out of school or skipped classes because of bullying, harassment or lack of understanding by teachers and students.

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