Sunday, 19 July 2009

Independent: Treat us as equal citizens
19.7.9 by Annaliza Borg

“We want to be treated as equal citizens of this country and other countries we live in,” said Gabriella Calleja, coordinator of the Malta Gay Rights Movement during the annual Gay Pride Parade that took place in the streets of Valletta yesterday morning.

A sizeable crowd of people walked behind a banner with the words: “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention”, whistling, carrying rainbow flags, colourful balloons and small banners each with some food for thought.

“I am for the separation of church and hate”, “Human rights are family values”, “Straight but not narrow”, “Love is all it takes to make a family”, “I vote and pay taxes” and similar messages against homophobia among messages of encouragement for gay people to come out and be themselves.

Ms Calleja said that bullying gay people at schools and places of work was still going on, creating difficulties for gay people to come out or get married and live a normal life like other citizens. Ms Calleja also spoke of new laws that were being passed in EU countries such as Lithuania, which discriminate against homosexuality.

“Change is possible and we want it to happen,” Ms Calleja said.

A gay person participating in the event, Gattaldo, told The Malta Independent on Sunday that while political parties, including the Labour Party, Nationalist Party and Alternattiva Demokratika, have been promising to improve the way of life of gay people, promises have been too vague. While, explaining that he was married in the UK, he said that Malta needed to recognise civil partnership for gay people.

Recently a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender group was set up in Forum Zghazagh Laburisti with the aim of representing these people in the party through direct representation.

The group has been meeting gay people to discuss their needs and eventually present proposals to the party agenda before the next general election. They believe that our country still lacks much when it comes to representation of gay and lesbian people and the group has made it a point that the party statute states that there should never be discrimination against these people.

Their group also has an educative purpose, which is to achieve a culture change in society. They pointed out that while the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality assisted disabled persons or migrants who faced discrimination, they felt gay people did not get the same treatment.

They also spoke of reparative therapy, which is practiced by some psychologists in Malta supposedly to help gay people become heterosexual.

While this practice is little known to the public, such therapy is in fact detrimental to the people involved and, according to foreign statistics, some 30 per cent of the cases could be suicidal.

The LGBT group within the PL was to join Rainbow Rose, the LGBT group within the European Socialist Party.

Meanwhile, Mario Gerada from Drachma, an LGBT Catholic-Christian group, which aims to help people integrate spirituality with their sexuality, also gave his comments. He explained that gay people share a lot of values, such as love, relationships between two persons, unity of people and the ideal of eliminating discrimination and prejudice, with the Catholic and Christian Church. On the other hand, a lot of discussion on faith takes place that goes against faith itself, he said. Thus group members try to understand themselves and build a strong relationship with God by questioning themselves and discussing matters with the rest of society.

Moviment Graffiti also reiterated its position in favour of LGBT rights and called for authorities to implement more effectively and strengthen legislation that protects LGBT persons from discrimination. It also spoke of the need to move from the concept of tolerance to that of rights.

MEP Simon Busuttil and MPs David Agius, Evarist Bartolo, Owen Bonnici and Gino Cauchi participated in the event together with General Workers Union members, representatives of Moviment Zghazagh Partit Nazzjonalista.

The parade was also attended by a good number of foreigners and heterosexual people.

Addressing the crowd towards the end of the event, Labour Party representative Evarist Bartolo said that although the country has moved forward in its perception of gay people and rights, much still needs to be done. He said that gay rights are human rights, therefore gay people should have the same rights like all other people.

PN MEP Simon Busuttil said that he represented all Maltese people including gays and lesbians at EU level and at party level.

He believed that laws and people’s mentality needed to change for gay people to feel part of society. Explaining his participation in the EU committee for Civil Liberty, Dr Busuttil promised to work for better inclusion of gay people.

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