Saturday, 31 January 2009
Trailer to the heart-wrenching movie "Bent" starring Clive Owen. A film about the rarely acknowledged persecution and annihilation of German homosexuals in the Nazi concentration camps. [Keywords: Hitler, Paragraph 175].
29.1.9 by Tonio Borg, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Valletta
With reference to the article titled PN Is Not Liberal (January 26) I would like to correct the reported facts.
At no instance during the dialogue held at the Balzan Nationalist Party office on Sunday, January 25, did I make a reference to same sex marriages or cohabiting couples. It must be stated that I made no reference to the "conservative ideology" governing the values of the Nationalist Party. To the contrary, I said that the PN's principles are not based on liberalism but on sound Christian Democratic principles. This implies that the Nationalist Party is not governed through a laissez-faire attitude but one where state regulation ensures the protection of those citizens in most need of protection and assistance.
Furthermore, in Parliament, I stated that it would be unjust for the landlord to be forced to acknowledge at his expense the transfer by inheritance of a lease to relationships beyond the current ones protected by law.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
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Live-Streaming at www.di-ve.com (Click on TV and Live Events)
Dibattitu 'Ewropa Socjali' 24/01/2009
The House of Representatives yesterday agreed to take the government’s rent reform bill to committee stage with Minister John Dalli saying he was itching to get his fingers on the Opposition’s proposals.
Mr Dalli, forever the pragmatist, said that both parties realised that this was a very important reform to Maltese law. He said that there is nothing better than well intentioned and constructive criticism and that he looked forward to receiving the PL’s proposals. Mr Dalli said that past administrations had created the mangled mess of today and it was high time to put things right. He also said issues such as same sex partnerships and other unions were too important to be slipped through the back door and should be debated in parliament in their own right as there was urgency to do so. He also said that he was of the opinion that political club premises that had “trapped” the rightful owners should be addressed and that the bill should be footed by the relevant parties. The bill has now gone to committee stage.
Wednesday, 28th January 2009 by Gabi Calleja, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Mosta
Tonio Borg's intervention in a recent parliamentary session when debating the rent reform highlights the contempt in which the government holds same-sex couples and how far they are from according them the rights and respect they enjoy in a number of EU countries.
Despite discourse reiterated by the Nationalist Party regarding the need to regularise the position and legal status of couples who cohabit, regardless of whether the couples are same-sex or opposite-sex, Dr Borg's remarks left many wondering whether there really is any political will to legislate in this regard. His words and the mocking tone he used seemed particularly intent in belittling the relationships of same-sex couples and showed great insensitivity towards lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens.
Moreover, it clearly manifested that there are two measures being used when it comes to safeguarding the human rights and well-being of opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
By his statements the minister implied that were a partner or child of a same-sex couple to become homeless this was of no particular consequence. The hardship they would undergo was not a matter of concern to the state.
The minister also queried how one could verify the relationship of a cohabiting couple since no marriage certificate could be produced. He seemed to find the idea of registered partnerships for cohabiting couples, gay or straight to be a ridiculous notion, despite this being common practice in many countries. I am certain that to many politicians in Europe it is the minister's attitude that would be considered preposterous and out of sync with the times.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement would like to thank MP Evarist Bartolo for his intervention in defence of same-sex couples and his censure of Minister Borg's attitude towards the rights of sexual minorities.
[Click on the hyperlink at the top to view the comments]
28.1.9 by Joseph Carmel Chetcuti, Australia
“Contrary to what is being inferred, Christ never mentioned or condemned homosexuality. I see Christ as a great Jewish prophet. To that end, I have no doubt that if he were to return to earth, Christ would feel far more at home with out and proud gay men and lesbians than with those who seek to camouflage (unsuccessfully, might I add!) their sexuality behind religious drag”
I read with some disbelief (and horror) a statement attributed to Gozo Bishop Mario Grech, as set out in a Maltese newspaper on 25 January. Mgr Grech is reported to have said that “Whoever does not accept Christ’s teachings should be honest with themselves and excommunicate themselves from the Church.” This is not Mgr Grech’s first comment on the subject of homosexuality. And, with respect, he is increasingly coming over as someone who is very ill-equipped to tackle the complex issues surrounding sexuality and Christianity in the modern world.
That a bishop should promote or be seen to promote self-excommunication is incredible in the extreme. It demonstrates yet again the Church’s disregard of the spiritual needs of gay men and lesbians. Gay men and lesbians are and continue to be dispensable. Instead of entering into meaningful dialogue with gay men and lesbians (an unlikely prospect under the papacy of Benedict XVI), this Church opts for self-excommunication. Whatever happened to the role of bishop as pastor, a role that is supposedly one of nurturing?
My comments follow immediately.
Contrary to what is being inferred, Christ never mentioned or condemned homosexuality. I see Christ as a great Jewish prophet. To that end, I have no doubt that if he were to return to earth, Christ would feel far more at home with out and proud gay men and lesbians than with those who seek to camouflage (unsuccessfully, might I add!) their sexuality behind religious drag. With St Paul, out and proud gay men and lesbians can loudly proclaim that they have rejected the “hidden things of shame” and no longer walk in deceit: see 2 Corinthians 4:2. To this end we encourage our gay brothers and sisters who still make the religious closet their home to join us in our noble struggle for equality.
Gay men and lesbians are sick and tired of those who seek to justify their dislike, hatred, fear and what have you of gay men and lesbians by resorting to Scriptural texts. Let us be quite blunt about the Christian Scripture:
1. The Old Testament belongs to the Jews, not to Roman Catholics;
2. The Books of Scripture started off as oral tradition, not as written texts;
3. No original manuscripts of the Bible have survived and what we have today are copies of copies and translations of translations of what is claimed to have once been the inspired word of God;
4. We do not know the identity of most of authors of the Old and New Testaments;
5. Many of Paul’s letters were not written by him;
6. The authors of the four Gospels were not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or, more appropriately, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John as Mark’s Gospel is believed to be the first to have been written;
7. The books of the Old and New Testaments contain more than “the word of God”: see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 25;
8. There have been interpolations, bad copying and worse translations, and deliberate manipulation and distortion of what is today seen as the “word of God”: see, for example, the use of the word “homosexual” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as translated by Librerija Preca’s Bibbja.
It is high time, I respectfully submit, for gay men and lesbians to confront head on the “encouragement” for gay men and lesbians to excommunicate themselves. For far too long, gay men and lesbians have been treated like mushrooms.
In the context of Christian theology, baptism is a device by which a person becomes a Christian. No passage in Scripture suggests that baptism is a device by which a person becomes a member of that Church that calls itself one, holy, catholic and apostolic: see, for example, Acts 2:38 and 22:16 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. Significantly, St John the Baptist who baptised Christ was, as far as I know, not a Roman Catholic!
Given Pope Benedict’s decision to put an end to limbo, infant baptism is an abusive practice and one that disregards the rights of children.
As yet again demonstrated, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is all about structure and doctrine. It stubbornly refuses to accept its children in all of their diversity.
I now wonder whether heterosexuals who do not accept the Church’s teachings on the pill should also excommunicate themselves. And what about those abusive priests and nuns? Will the Church continue to protect them as it has done in the past?
For the record, let me say loud and clear that I was baptised when only a few days old and without my informed consent. I rejected Roman Catholicism in the early 1970s. I am not a Roman Catholic. I see no reason whatsoever why I should excommunicate myself from a Church to which I have not belonged for well over 30 years. As I see it, self-excommunication requires me to submit yet again to another precedent of this Church which I have long rejected. Even so, I respect the right of others to follow a different path. I do in no way seek to minimise the political significance of those who have chosen to follow a different path and I would greatly support a movement of those who excommunicate themselves!
Joseph Carmel Chetcuti is a Barrister and Solicitor in Australia
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
27.1.9; by Annaliza Borg
Union Haddiema Maghqudin yesterday launched ‘090509’, a project to enhance debate on the European Union prior to elections for Maltese representatives in the European Parliament which will be held in June.
The project seeks to encourage members of civil society to put forward their ideas and proposals for discussion. These proposals should subsequently be picked up by elected Maltese MEPs. It is being carried out on the fifth anniversary of Malta’s accession in the EU and its title signifies the date for Europe day. It also falls on the 30th anniversary since the European Parliament was elected by people for the first time.
A number of personalities from different sectors of society have been selected as opinion leaders. These include Gabriella Calleja from the Gay Rights Movement, actress Clare Agius Ordway, and Gejtu Vella as a trade unionist, among others. A number of organisations representing young people, the elderly, persons with disability and others are supporting the initiative.
Five-minute voice clips of the selected opinion leaders will be online at www.090509.org and members of the public will be able to interact and participate in the discussion through online blogs.
The aim of the project is to include as much diversity as possible and be a reflection of the Maltese people’s beliefs, views and concerns by raising issues of general social interest, said John Mallia, the projects coordinator on logistics and media relations. The discussion will lead to a compilation of proposals as an agenda for Maltese representatives at the European Parliament, he added.
“The European Union is made up of people and is not a forum for political parties,” said Joanna Drake, Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta. Dr Drake also argued that cyberspace should be used much more as a means of connecting with people as the EU wants to be closer to society.
Mr Vella said that such an initiative was a means of moving closer to having a broad based Europe rather than top down institutions. He said that people should be dominating the scene and not political parties.
e50,000 of the project’s cost is being co-funded by the EU. The total cost of the project is estimated at e65,000.
Tuesday, 27th January 2009 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona
... [Excerpt from the article]
Legislation is there for all and not only the followers of this religion or that, a fact of life that is beginning to sink in even on this little rock where the letter of the law must conform while its practice is a free for all.
Last week's voting in Brussels on the famous Giusto Catania resolutions was a case in point. Our MEPs voted against removing clauses that safeguarded the rights of gay couples but had to in the end either abstain or vote against the resolution as a whole because of the inclusion of abortion. All these issues like bioethics, euthanasia, divorce, cohabitation, same-sex partnerships and other civil liberties have been swept under the carpet by our legislators for so long with the excuse that, like water, it is expected that society will always somehow find its own level and establish a modus vivendi, which I suppose is a rather cynical view of the situation as long as things are hunky-dory and go as they should.
That is precisely why I found the remarks passed by our Deputy Prime Minister when rebutting the Labour Party (PL) proposals to the rent laws last week so disparaging and offensive. The PL pointed out that, among others, gay couples are to be recognised with regard to the inheritance of leases, something that Tonio Borg, for reasons best known to him, used in a way that was bound to irritate and dismay what he may not realise is a sizeable chunk of the population. The gay community, which today not only includes the gay person him or herself, but also their families and friends, is not to be used as ammunition to fight political battles as it has enough of its own to contend with. Dr Borg's remarks were gratuitous and require an apology.
So when the President-elect [Obama], on Martin Luther King Day, barely 24 hours before his swearing in, vows to uphold the rights of all, including gay and straight, can we really expect a new age to be dawning in which the rights of man will become a reality and not just a cipher for the privileged few?
Comment by C. Attard on timesofmalta.com
Good thing you point out Tonio Borg's remarks, but I'm also not conviced by the PN MEPs vote in favour of the gay rights clauses. After 5 years in which they practically voted down or abstained on every occasion when gay rights were discussed, this smacks of a political gimmick right on the eve of the EP elections, trying to undo all the negative press they got over the issue over the past 5 years. We all remember that Simopn Busuttil was at that meeting with MGRM before the general election, in which the PN promised it would support the new EU anti-discrimination directive. Less that 3 months later the PN MEPs voted against it in the EP and Dalli called the directive 'premature' at a Council meeting. So Casa and Busuttil can vote in whatever way they want now. My vote, and that of countless other gay men and lesbians, will go elsewhere come June.
[Click on the hyperlink at the top to view more comments.]
25.1.9 by James Debono
[Excerpts from the Interview. The whole interview can be found at the hyperlink above.]
He comes straight out of the PN’s ‘broad church’. But is the party stretching itself beyond its limits by fielding anti-Spring hunting and pro-divorce Edward Demicoli [former officer for the Malta EU-Information Centre]?
But Demicoli insists that he remains free to express his views within the party. “I am proud of contesting with the PN because they don’t put a gag on your mouth by putting a €15,000 fine on your head,” a snide remark at the PL’s decision to fine any MEP candidates that don’t abide by party directives.
Even on divorce, yet another untouchable issue for Nationalists, his position deviates from that of the party’s establishment. Demicoli states he will “surely vote in favour” in a referendum on divorce, even if he prefers divorce to be introduced through a free vote in parliament. “This is not a matter which should be decided through a referendum. A serious analysis of the situation should be made and on the basis of this, the necessary measures taken by parliament.”
He also qualifies his support for divorce by advocating measures aimed at strengthening families. “There is no single solution to the problem of marital breakdown. But I believe that divorce is one of the solutions. But apart from introducing divorce we have to take measures which strengthen the family. For example people, who opt for a civil marriage should also be offered marriage preparation courses.”
Although the European parliament has presently no jurisdiction on moral matters like divorce and gay marriages, it often votes on resolutions urging member states to introduce gay marriages. And both PN MEPs David Casa and Simon Busuttil have voted against these resolutions.
While favouring the recognition of same sex partnerships, Demicoli opposes gay marriage. “Discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable in all cases. But the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman should remain. On the other hand all couples who live together including same sex couples should enjoy the same civil rights.”
[P. Attard's Note: I do not find Mr. Demicoli very convincing since the other PN MEPs didn't support resolutions which condemmend homophobia even though Mr. Casa wrote he is favour of gay marriage. Mr. Demicoli is in a conservative party and might be ordered to vote according to the party's lines.]
25.1.9 by Evarist Bartolo
Mary has been cohabiting with Joseph for nearly 40 years. She would have liked to marry him after her husband abandoned her and moved to Australia, where she has not been able to trace him. She has tried to marry Joseph but before she can do so, she has to provide proof that her husband has died. Otherwise she can be accused of bigamy.
Mary is now getting worried that she will end up homeless if Joseph dies before her, as the landowner has told her that he has rented the flat to Joseph and she has no right to stay there. She has been telling me to speak up for her in the rent reform legislation being discussed in parliament.
I had persons like Mary in mind when I spoke in parliament last Monday on the rent bill. The week before, Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg attacked the Labour Party for speaking in favour of the need to introduce measures in the new rent legislation to protect the rights of cohabiting couples and gay partners in long-term relationships.
Using a very offensive, cynical and derisory tone he poured scorn over the Labour Party’s demand. He asked whether the Labour Party was advocating a cohabitation register, and did it want to help a person who decided to cohabit after being widowed?
Why is Dr Borg so shocked? He was already a member of parliament more than 10 years ago when the Nationalist Party solemnly declared in its 1998 electoral manifesto (point 194) that it would enact a law to establish rights and obligations between a man and a woman who had formed a cohabiting relationship. More than 10 years have passed, and the Nationalist Party has not kept this promise. Had this promise been kept, there would be no need now to call for measures to protect the rights of cohabiting couples in the new rent legislation.
Dr Borg’s sarcastic and cynical tone on gay couples was in stark contrast to what the PN told gay people during last year’s electoral campaign. Representatives of the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) had met a delegation of the PN. During that meeting the PN had expressed itself in favour in principle of a newly proposed European Union (EU) directive against discrimination of gays and other minorities. In line with this proposed EU directive, the MGRM had submitted a list of proposals to all the political parties before the March elections, but the most important for them had been the regulation and legal protection of gay couples as enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, even when it comes to housing.
But now that the election has passed the PN government has changed its tone and its stand and is maintaining that the EU directive against discrimination is still premature, and that a long time of serious study and consideration is needed before incorporating such a directive in Maltese law. But at the pre-election meeting with the MGRM the government had said it was in favour of such a directive.
Malta needs legislation on civil partnerships of cohabitating or gay couples. Otherwise these persons are going to be deprived of the full equality of rights they are entitled to as citizens in our society.
Among those who supported Malta’s accession to the EU had been many who saw this as an opportunity to open up our society to civil liberties that we are still deprived of, and the elimination of discrimination and strong social prejudices against minorities like gays. Last March an EU report had said that Malta was one of seven countries in which protection from discrimination against homosexuals existed only in employment legislation.
The report, which urged that such protection be extended to other areas, specifically housing, had also said there existed no machinery in Malta for such protection. Government has still to take steps to set up such a structure.
It is no excuse to resist the EU directive against discrimination on the grounds that Malta is a traditional society, and that habits and mindsets have to change before we accept such civil rights legislation. When it came to introducing legislation to eliminate racism and discrimination against disabled persons, the PN government said that laws help to change culture and mentalities. The same argument applies now when it comes to cohabiting couples and gay partners in a long-term relationship.
25.1.9 minn Gabi Calleja; Malta Gay Rights Movement
Waqt seduta Parlamentari riċenti fejn kienet qed tiġi diskussa r-riforma fil-Liġi tal-Kera, il-Ministru Tonio Borg għamel intervent li wera l-pożizzjoni xejn ċara li l-Gvern għandu fir-rigward tar-regolarizzazzjoni ta’ koppji tal-istess sess. Bl-intervent tiegħu l-Ministru kompla jfakkarna li koppji Maltin tal-istess sess igawdu minn ħafna inqas drittijiet meta mqabbla ma’ dawk li jgħixu f’pajjiżi Ewropej oħra.
Minkejja li l-PN diversi drabi saħaq dwar il-bżonn li l-pożizzjoni ta’ koppji li jikkoabitaw tiġi regolarizzata – kemm jekk ta’ l-istess sess u kemm jekk tas-sess oppost – kliem Tonio Borg iġiegħel lil wieħed jirrifletti dwar jekk teżistix realment volontà politika biex dan iseħħ.
Il-kliem li ntuża mill-Ministru u t-ton kważi ta’ tmasħir li bih intqalu dehru intenzjonati li jwaqqgħu l-valur ta’ koppji tal-istess sess u wrew insenstittività kbira lejn persuni gay. F’parti mid-diskors, il-Ministru saħaq li ma jaqbilx mal-estensjoni tad-drittijiet “għal min jiddeċiedi li jmur jgħix flimkien tal-istess sess”, daqslikieku koppja tal-istess sess “tiddeċiedi” li tgħix flimkien għal raġunijiet differenti minn dawk ta’ koppji tas-sess oppost.
Jidher ċar li d-drittijiet umani ta’ koppji tas-sess oppost u ta’ dawk tal-istess sess mhux qed jiġu meqjusa fuq l-istess livell. Bid-diskors tiegħu l-Ministru implika li jekk il-maħbub/a jew l-ulied ta’ koppja tal-istess sess kellhom jispiċċaw mingħajr saqaf fuq rashom, din ma tkunx ħaġa li għandha tikkonċerna lill-Istat.
Il-Ministru staqsa wkoll kif jista’ wieħed ikun jaf li persuna tkun qed tikkoabita peress li ma jkunx ġie maħruġ ċertifikat taż-żwieġ. Milli nftiehem mid-diskors tiegħu jidher li l-Ministru jara t-tnedija ta’ reġistru għall-koabitanti bħala idea redikola minkejja li din hi xi ħaġa komuni f’ħafna pajjiżi oħra. Ninsabu ċerti li ħafna politiċi barranin iqisu li hi l-attitudni tal-Ministru li għandha tiġi meqjusa bħala pjuttost redikola u barra minn lokha.
Il-Malta Gay Rights Movement tixtieq tirringrazzja lill-MP Evarist Bartolo tal-intervent tiegħu fejn widdeb lill-Ministru Tonio Borg għan-nuqqas ta’ sensittività tiegħu fir-rigward ta’ minoranzi sesswali.
Monday, 26 January 2009
23.1.9 National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) Report.
[The following is an extract taken from "The Voice for All (VS20070477) Reseach Study", developed within the border framework of the Voice for All Project coordinated by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) and co-funded by the European Community for Employment and Social Solidarity PROGRESS (2007-2013). The study, launched on Friday, 23rd January 2009, comprises a transnational analysis on six grounds of discrimination, namely Race Ethinicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Religion and Age, carried out in Malta, Northern Ireland, Italy and Cyprus. The Maltese Research Report was compiled by Mr. Neville Borg from the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality.]
The issue of sexual orientation is still a somewhat taboo subject in Malta, where religious beliefs still exude a strong moral, and legislative, authority. In fact, the discussion on Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights is often cast under the light of sexual deviance rather than human rights. Authorities often appear unwilling to partecipate in the discussion on LGBT rights, regularly expressing their reservations on the issue, and neither of the two main political parties place LGBT issues high on their agenda during the 2008 electoral campaign.
Sexual orientation is not mentioned in the Constitution, as opposed to other potential causes of discriminatory treatment such as race, gender, disability and religion. The only legal provision towards the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was introduced through Legal Notice 461, which amended the Employment and Industrial Relations Act to include sexual orientation as a ground upon which discrimination is prohibited.
However, since the Act only deals with the sphere of employment and occupation, Maltese legislation still does not completely prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in other aspects of social life such as healthcare, housing and education, Maltese legislation has also been criticized for not overtly prohibiting demonstrations or hate speech that incite discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Same-sex partnerships is not currently permitted by law, and although transgender persons are able to change their identification documents in accordance with their new gender identity, this provision appear not to apply to official social functions such as marriage. This conundrum has been highly publicized through the case of a Civil Court invalidated a previous ruling allowing a transgender woman to marry her male partner, accusing the woman to be in breach of Malta¹s Marriage Act, which prohibits the union between persons of the same sex.
There is currently very little empirical data dealing with the issue of sexual orientation, particularly in light of the fact that a person¹s sexuality is considered a private affair. The State does not gather statistics on the prevalence or size of the Maltese LGBT community, and there have been no formal large-scale studies of this social group.
The only empirical data on the LGBT community available is that resulting from studies carried out by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM). One particular study found that 50.2% of all respondents had suffered some form of harassment due to their sexual orientation, with 3% stating that they were denied a job and a further 4% suspecting that this was the case. 39.5% of respondents stated that they were harassed at work, 12.5% experienced discrimination in accommodation, and 34% had suffered discriminatory treatment in the bars, discotheques, restaurants or other similar locales. An important finding of this study was that 73.5% of respondents claimed that, as a result of the discrimination they had suffered, they would choose to emigrate if it were practical for them to do so.
A survey carried out by a local newspaper found that only 29% of respondents favoured the introduction of same-sex marriages. However, there was a clear discrepancy in views according to the respondents¹ age group 54% of respondents under the age of 34 supported gay marriage, but over 82% of those over the age of 55 oppose it.
An Eurobarometer study found that 59% of Maltese believe that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is widespread, and that contrary to the studies cited above, as well as perceived knowledge the Maltese are very comfortable with the idea of having a gay person as their next door neighbour (8.4 on the scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most comfortable and 1 being the least comfortable).
Although Maltese legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the field of employment, studies have shown that discrimination in the workplace persists. The situation may be particularly precarious for the persons who are transgender, since "many trans people are found within the lower-skilled jobs, not necessary because they are less skilled but for the simple fact that they are not hired".
It is not uncommon for LGBT persons to be the victims of degrading jokes or teasing at the workplace, and an MGRM study found that 39.5% of respondents felt the need to conceal their sexual orientation in at least some jobs, whilst a further 36.5% chose to hide their sexual orientation in all jobs. These statistics indicate that "the homosexual often cannot afford to express his or her true personality because in so doing she would be exposing him herself to hostile reactions".
MGRM, in an effort to sensitise employers on transgender issues in the workplace, has recently published guidelines for employers detailing the way in which they can aid transgender persons in the workplace. These guidelines include a glossary listing a series of terms related to transgender issues, besides providing a brief summary of the legal provisions and recommendations on how an employer can protect LGBT persons in the workplace. Furthermore, a series of training sessions were held with representatives of various organizations (in both the private and the public sector), as well as trade unions, equality bodies and employment corporations, where the guidelines were distributed and transgender issues were discussed directly with employers.
Discourse on LGBT issues in civil society are primary raised through the work of MGRM, which has conducted a number of initiatives aimed at combating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MGRM runs a National Gay Helpline, as well as face-to-face support for persons who are facing any problems due to their sexual orientation. In 2007, a monthly e-newsletter titled Alegre was launched, containing information on the MGRM¹s activities, as well as any milestones related to LGBT issues across the world.
Furthermore, MGRM also issued two information booklets one aimed at LGBTQ youth and the other at parents and friends of LGBTQ youth that were aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions on LGBTQ issues, as well as providing help to persons seeking to come to terms with their own sexual orientation or that of those around them. These booklets contained brief personal accounts of the experiences of a number of LGBTQ youths living in Malta. The information booklets were distributed to teachers, counselors, social workers, and psychologists, as well as the general public.
Another organization working towards ensuring equality for LGBT persons is DRACHMA, which organizes weekly meetings for Catholic LGBT persons. During these meetings, LGBT issues are discussed within a Catholic context and a prayer session is carried out. DRACHMA also organizes specific meetings for parents, relatives and friends of LGBT persons, where LGBT and non-LGBT persons alike come together to express their faith.
Recently, DRACHMA has organized a number of awareness-raising events, including public talks by foreign speakers renowned for their involvement in LGBT issues and the Catholic Church (these speakers included a theologian, a Roman Catholic nun prominent for her work with the Catholic LGBT community, and an artist). These events garnered considerable media attention, and encouraged a more open public discourse on the relationship between LGBT issues and religion.
The issue of sexual orientation discrimination has not yet succeeded in obtaining a similar degree of visibility and subsequent social mobilization as other forms of discrimination. Although MGRM has conducted numerous awareness raising initiatives, relatively few other social bodies have adopted the issue of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and organized activities based specifically on this issue.
This lack of initiative can be partly seen as a result of a set of traditional values strongly influenced b the moral authority enjoyed by the Catholic faith. These values, although not static, are felt throughout Maltese society, particularly in the lack of political will to regularize the legislative measures prohibiting discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation to cover all aspects of social life, and to introduce provisions to counter this discrimination. Organizations such as DRACHMA seek to act as bridge between religious values and the LGBT community by demonstrating how a person¹s faith need not negatively influence their self-perception, or their perception of other people¹s sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, there is the need for a more widespread effort to promote information about, and acceptance of LGBT issues into different spheres of social life. It is believed that there is a degree of confusion on LGBT issues and that "there is a lack of information on what transgender is". This lack of information may lead to unwillingness on behalf of employers to employ LGBT persons, therefore forcing a number of LGBT persons to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Hekk kif smajt bih dan il-ktieb mal-ewwel gietni kurzità dwaru u wisq aktar sabiex insir naf lill-awtur. Permezz tal-kuntatti personali li bnejt matul dawn l-ahhar snin, irnexxili naghmel kuntatt dirett u fl-ahhar mill-ahhar iltqajt ma’ l-awtur ukoll.
Tkellimt b’mod in generali mieghu, filwaqt li ghaddieli kopja tal-ktieb. Fi zmien qisu xahar irnexxili naqra l-ktieb kollu b’interess li sammarni jum wara iehor ghatxana nkun naf xi jmiss li jigri. Nistqarr li nahseb f’ghomri s’issa qatt ma qrajt ktieb shih minn qoxra sa qoxra b’interess qawwi. Wara li qrajt il-ktieb, mal-awtur ddiskutejt il-kuncett tal-ktieb tieghu – Xandru, Mizzewweg u Gay!!!!
Storja tal-ktieb rumanz
L-istorja tar-rumanz Xandru Mizzewweg u Gay titratta dwar il-hajja drammatika ta’ zaghzugh fit-tftixxija tieghu ta’ l-identità sesswali propja. Ir-rumanz huwa ambjentat mill-bidu tas-snin tmenin u jitlaq minn hemm. Xandru jiltaqa’ ma’ Gizelle u din il-mara xeghlitlu hajtu. Maghha xtaq jaqsam is-sabih u l-ikrah tal-bqija ta’ hajtu. Iz-zwieg huwa tappa inevitabbli f’hajjet din il-koppja u permezz ta’ din ir-rabta jasal il-frott li jkompli jzewwaq il-hajja ta’ dawn it-tnejn min-nies. Imma Xandru, fil-fond ta’ qalbu u fil-passjonijiet li jgarrab ihoss il-gibda go fih li kienet mizrugha mat-twelid jekk mhux ukoll minn qabel. Tort ta’ min hu dan?
Ir-rumanz jistaqsi u jiddibattti l-pozizzjoni rigida li tiehu l-Knisja Kattolika kemm lokali kif ukoll dik Universali dwar din il-kategorija vulnerabbli fejn tkompli ssammrilhom fuq id-dwejjaq u t-tbatijiet li jghaddu minnhom fit-tfittxija taghhom ghall-gharfien u l-accettazzjoni ta’ dak li tassew huma. F’dan il-labirint ta’ dwejjaq, Xandru jdahhal mieghu kemm lil Gizelle kif ukoll lil uliedu li lkoll kemm huma jghaddu minn riperkussjonijiet ta’ ostilità. Interessanti hafna l-pozizzjoni li tiehu Gizelle li kien hawn min sejhilha bhala rarità u kwazi impossibli. Kif qalli Javier stess waqt il-konverzazzjoni mieghu, “Intenni nghid l-konvinzjoni tieghi li bhal Carol Lynn Pearson, il-Gizelle tar-rumanz tirrapprezenta ghadd ta’ individwi ohrajn li jaqsmu u jghixu din id-dramma filwaqt li t-tort ta’ dan kollu zgur li jinsab x’imkien iehor.”
L-awtur veru tal-ktieb
Nibda biex nghid li isem l-awtur Javier Vella Sammut huwa isem fittizju jew ahjar psewdonomu maghzul minn awtur Malti li kiteb ir-rumanz ricenti - Xandru Mizzewweg u Gay, liema rumanz qed iqajjem sensazzjoni qawwija fost dawk li jhobbu l-ktieb bil-Malti. Javier qieghed fil-fazi matura ta’ hajtu izda jiftakar sew li bhala zaghzugh hadem b’impenn f’ghaqdiet taz-zghazagh fuq temi socjali. Illum il-gurnata l-maturità f’hajtu wasslitu biex jesplora mezzi godda ta’ kif izomm dak l-impenn socjali haj permezz tal-kitba.
Insinifikanti min kiteb il-ktieb
Staqsejtu ghaliex dan ir-rumanz inkiteb taht psewdonomu.
“Huma diversi r-ragunijiet ghaliex wiehed jaghzel li jikteb taht psewdonomu. Il-psewdonomu mhux biss jittanta jostor l-identità ta’ l-individwu izda jhalli spazji ghall-qarrej biex jimrah fl-ispekulazzjoni tieghu. L-insularità tal-pajjiz u l-pregudizzji socjali li ghadhom jirrenjaw fost min jokkupa karigi influwenti fl-amministrazzjoni ta’ istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiz jistghu ikunu ragunijiet ohra. Nghid is-sew l-izjed raguni li rebhet fuq l-ohrajn hija li l-attenzjoni xtaqtha tiffoka fuq it-test innifsu u ghalhekk, kif kien qalilna darba lecturer ewlieni fl-università, kwazi kwazi huwa insinifikanti min ikun kiteb ix-xoghol hdejn il-mistoqsijiet li ghandhom jitqanqlu mix-xoghol innifsu.
“Fil-qasam letterarju kienu bosta dawk li ghazlu li jiktbu taht psewdonomu. Wiehed jista’ jsemmi ezempji celebri bhal dak ta’ Mark Twain (Samwel Clemens), Acton Bell (Anne Bronte), Boz (Charles Dickens), George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) u Stephen King (Richard Bachman) biex insemmu ftit minnhom”, fissirli Javier.
Il-messagg li jrid iwassal permezz tal-ktieb
Mistoqsi jghidli dwar il-messagg tieghu permezz tal-ktieb stess, Javier wegibni, “Il-ktieb jiddibatti l-pozizzjoni li tiehu l-quccata tal-gerarkija Kattolika quddiem tema bhal din. Sa dan l-ahhar stess, il-Papa Ratzinger hareg stqarrija, fil-fehma tieghi omofobika, dwar l-omosesswalità fejn qabbilha mal-hsara tax-xita aciduza lill-foresta. Bi stqarrija bhal din kisser fix-xejn it-tentattiv genwin, biex jinbnew pontijiet minn qassisin fi hdan l-istess Knisja, ma’ individwi u l-gheziez taghhom li jappartjenu ghal din il-kategorija vulnerabbli socjali. Ghandu ghalxiex itaqqlilhom il-kuxjenza lil dawn li johorgu bi stqarrijiet bhal dawn, il-konsegwenzi koroh u hzena li jistghu ihallu fuq individwi li ghadhom jissieltu biex jaslu f’xi forma ta’ kompromess biex jaccettaw lilhom infushom u l-identità sesswali taghhom”.
Dwar jekk dan kienx l-ewwel pubblikazzjoni li kiteb s’issa, Javier infurmani li f’dak li ghandu x’jaqsam ma’ kitba ghall-adulti, dan kien l-ewwel xoghol letterarju tieghu.
“Wara r-rispons qawwi li kellu dan ix-xoghol s’issa, ninsab imheggeg biex nikteb xoghol iehor li qieghed nahdem fuqu bhalissa u li nittama li ma jdumx ma jara d-dawl tal-pubblikazzjoni tieghu izjed tard matul din is-sena. Ser ikun rumanz li jitratta tema socjali ohra li kategorija vulnerabbli ohra ghaddiet minnhom. Ser ikun ukoll rumanz b’siltiet u deskrizzjonijiet li jistghu jimpressjonaw u jixxukkjaw u nistieden lil dawk li ghandhom qalbhom xierfa biex ma jaqrawhx”, zied jinfurmani Javier.
Grajja attwali anke f’Malta
Bla dubju ta’ xejn ridt inkun naf minn fejn gab din l-ispirazzjoni kollha sabiex jghaqqad rumanz ta’ din il-kwalità. Hawnhekk Javier irrispondini b’risposta dettaljata ghall-ahhar.
“Kemm ir-rumanz Xandru Mizzewweg u Gay, kif ukoll dak li qed nikteb bhalissa jitrattaw grajjiet, avvenimenti li graw u ghadhom jigru fir-realtà tal-lum. Minkejja l-avvanzi teknologici li ghadda minnhom il-bniedem, il-qaghda socjali ta’ hafna individwi u kategoriji kemm f’pajjizi li jiftahru bis-sistema demokratika ta’ pajjizhom kif ukoll pajjizi ohra ghadha mxekkla bi ktajjen ta’ injoranza u pregudizzji. Il-ktieb Xandru Mizzewweg u Gay kif jinghad ukoll fil-prologu tal-ktieb innifsu huwa mnebbah minn rakkont vera ta’ mara, omm u awtrici Carol Lynn Pearson fil-ktieb taghha “Goodbye, I love Your.” (Random House, 1986). Imma din il-grajja nemmen li hija attwali ukoll anke f’pajjizna. Hemm nies ohrajn li ghaddejjin minn din l-istess dramma izda ma jaslux biex jiktbuha. Xi whud isolvuha bit-triq tas-separazzjoni, divorzju filwaqt li ohrajn jghaddu minn moghdijiet ohrajn. Hemm stejjer u grajjiet li ma jaslux biex jiehdu surithom fil-kitba izda jibqghu fuq il-livell ta’ rakkont haj”, stqarr Javier.
Xandru tar-rumanz, min hu?
Minn kummenti li smajt diversi, hafna persuni qed jahsbu li l-ktieb qed jirreferi ghal xi Malti b’dak l-isem. Dwar dan tkellimt ma’ Javier ukoll.
“Anke jiena smajt l-istess kummenti. Nassigurak li ma kelli lil hadd preciz f’mohhi meta ktibt ir-rumanz. Xandru jista’ jkun Albert, Ian, Marc. L-ghazla ta’ l-isem waqghet fuq il-karattru Xandru forsi wkoll bhala kontinwazzjoni tal-karattru Xandru fir-rumanz “Is-Salib tal-Fidda” ta’ Wistin Born jew Xandru, l-poeta ribell fir-rumanz “Samuraj” ta’ Frans Sammut. Xtaqt isem mhux daqstant komuni u kemm jista’ jkun Malti. Nahseb li hawn xi zewg tuzzani Maltin b’dan l-isem izda hadd minnhom ma kien fi hsiebi meta nsigt dan ir-rumanz”, assigurani Javier.
Opinjoni ta’ l-awtur dwar l-omosesswalità
Staqsejt ukoll lill-awtur, dwar kif hu personali ihares lejn persuna omosesswali.
“Persuni omosesswali, generalment huma persuni kreattivi, jiccelebraw hafna l-joie de vivre u jezaltaw f’sens ta’ altruwizmu u sensitività qawwija. Inhoss li minhabba r-restrizzjonijiet u r-repressjoni socjali xi whud minnhom setghu inbiddlu wkoll f’eremiti socjali jekk mhux ukoll f’antagonisti ribelluzi. Hasra, tassew hasra li flok gharafna naghtu kultura lil dan it-tessut socjali, hnoqnieh u rreprimejnieh”.
Dwar jekk jahsibx li forsi Malta ghadha xi daqsxejn lura fejn jidhlu drittijiet ghall-omosesswali Maltin, Javier ikkumenta, “F’Malta, bhal f’hafna affarijiet ohra li jitrattaw dawk l-affarijiet liberali jiddetta l-opportunizmu meta jigu biex jittiehdu d-decizjonijiet. Minn dakinhar li Malta bdiet il-vera triq ta’ liberalizzazzjoni u gharfien tad-drittijiet civili, ghaddew ‘il fuq minn 25 sena. Dakinhar ghamilna l-pass ghaqli li niddikriminalizzaw l-omosesswalità. L-omosesswalità b’hekk ma baqghetx reat kriminali. Izda biex naslu sal-punt li individwu omosesswali jhossu trattat xejn izjed u xejn inqas minn cittadini kwalunkwe, jidher li ghadna kemmxejn ‘il boghod. Jippreokkupani hafna l-fatt li numru sostanzjali ta’ individwi omosesswali waslu sal-punt li jitturufnaw lilhom infushom minn art twelidhom minhabba ripressjoni socjali li ghadha tipprevali.”
Fid-dinja u anke f’Malta, aktarx li hawn diversi persuni mizzewga u gay!! Hija hasra. Tlabt lil Javier jghaddili l-kummenti tieghu dwar ghaliex fl-opinjoni tieghu jahseb li kien u ghadu jigri hekk u forsi jissuggerixxi wkoll xi ideat ta’ kif sitwazzjonijiet simili jitnaqqsu u jispiccaw darba ghal dejjem.
“Jekk wiehed jigi biex ikejjel l-incidenza tal-omosesswalità f’popolazzjoni partikulari ma tkunx daqstant facli u dan anke ghall-fatt li minhabba l-pregudizzji socjali kemm minhabba li ma jsirux studji sostanzjali dwar dan kif ukoll l-istudju empiriku ma jkunx realistiku hafna. Jinghad però li c-cifra tista’ tkun bejn hamsa u sebgha fil-mija. Fin-Norvegja studju ricenti skont il-Wikipedia jghid li kien hemm mat-12 fil-mija li ammettew relazzjoni omosesswali. Zgur però li c-cifra toghla hafna izjed minn hekk jekk wiehed jitkellem dwar il-bisesswalità.
“Hu x’inhu l-kaz, proporzjon sew minn dawn huma mizzewgin jew biex jirreprimu dak li tassew huma jew biex ikunu jistghu igawdu minn drittijiet socjali li suppost ghandhom ikunu garantiti lil kulhadd. Jibqa’ jkun hemm din l-incidenza ta’ zwigijiet ta’ konvenjenza frott l-ingustizzji, l-injoranza u l-pregudizzji socjali. Il-konsegwenzi ta’ dan kollu ghandhom ikunu ta’ piz fuq il-kuxjenza ta’ kull min jista’ jaghmel xi haga biex tinbidel din is-sitwazzjoni u jibqa’ ma jaghmel xejn, jew aghar minn hekk jibqa’ johrog stqarrijiet li jkomplu jgharrqu s-sitwazzjoni ta’ dawn l-individwi. Ir-rabtiet foloz li jidhlu fihom, it-thabbil tal-kobba li jsibu rwiehhom fihom huma u l-familji taghhom fl-ahhar mill-ahhar hija responsabbiltà kollettiva li taqa’ fuq min suppost li jiehu decizjonijiet u jibqa’ ma johodhomx”.
Bibien maghluqa biex jippubblika l-ktieb
Domanda li gietni f’mohhi waqt li qed nitkellem ma’ Javier, kienet jekk sabx xi bibien maghluqa ghalih meta gie biex jipprintja l-ktieb. Fil-fatt skoprejt li sab diversi. Sfortunatament f’Malta ghad ghandna persuni li jibzghu jiehdu riskji jew aghar minn hekk li jaffaccjaw ir-realtà. Niehu minni stess, waqt li kont noqghod naqra siltiet mill-ktieb [hafna drabi fuq tal-linja], kont ninnota diversi persuni jharrsu stramb lejja u lejn il-qoxra tal-ktieb fejn setghu jaqraw car u tond – Xandru Mizzewweg u Gay. Jista’ jkun li hafna minnhom kienu jharsu b’mod kurjuz, ohrajn b’certu stmerrija, waqt li ohrajn qisu xejn mhu xejn. Irrelevanti ghalija, ghax kont nibqa’ naqra pagna wara ohra.
Nerga’ lura ghad-domanda li staqsejt lil Javier u wegibni hekk, “Iva, meta bdejt navvicina xi pubblikaturi kien hemm min darras wiccu, kien hemm min gab skuza wara ohra flok kien sincier mal-ewwel u qalli le u ghaliex le. Sibt ukoll lil min ried jesigi certu kundizzjonijiet bhal tbiccir tat-test u ticrit bix-xfafar tac-censura. Ovvjament m’accettajtx. Ma lhaqtx dort lil kulhadd.
“Il-Bronk Productions kienu s-sitt dar ta’ pubblikazzjoni li tkellimt maghhom u dawn dahlu ghall-impenn b’mod kuragguz u determinat. Illum inhoss li kienet l-ahjar ghazla li ghamilt meta avvicinajt lil Bronk. Konvint li hemm min minn dawk li rrifjutaw dan ix-xoghol li, ghal ragunijiet kummercjali, illum qed jiddispjacihom talli rrifjutawh, daqskemm hemm min mill-ohrajn li ghadhom konvinti li ghamlu sew meta rrifjutawh… affarihom!”, sahaq Javier.
Mal-Bronk Productions sab bibien miftuha ghalih. Accettaw il-proposta tieghu minn qalbhom.
“Inrodd hajr lil Benny Casha li malli ghaddejtlu x-xoghol ikkonsulta, gharbel sew u ha d-decizjoni li kellu jiehu. Kien entuzjast li dan ix-xoghol jara d-dawl daqsi jekk mhux ukoll iktar minni. Bhala dar tal-produzzjoni issa tista’ tiftahar ukoll li mliet ukoll vojt fil-letteratura Maltija fejn tema bhal dik tal-omosesswalita qatt ghadha ma giet trattata daqstant b’mod profond u intens. Il-Bronk, barra milli hija maghrufa ghal produzzjonijiet, televizivi, cinematografici u teatrali bexxqet tieqa wkoll f’dik li hija pubblikazzjoni ta’ kotba. Inhossni grat lejn Benny u l-Bronk li kieku ma kienx ghalihom forsi sal-lum ghadni nhabbat il-bibien tal-pubblikaturi jew niffinanzjah minn buti stess.
“L-impenn li dahlu ghalih tal-Bronk irrispettawh anke bil-pubblicità li nghata l-ktieb. L-aqwa reklam ghall-ktieb jibqa’ bhal dejjem, il-feedback li nircievu bil-fomm jew b’mod iehor minghand min ikun qrah u apprezza dak li nkiteb fir-rumanz”, temm jghidli fl-ahhar ta’ l-intervista mieghi Javier.
Monday, 26th January 2009 by Joe Zammit, Paola
Contrary to the picture sometimes painted by misinformed persons, the Holy See, and for that matter the Pope, the Vatican and the whole Catholic Church, are opposed to discrimination against homosexuals.
One can read paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On the other hand, in response to Italian press reports, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that the Holy See would not support the French proposal for a UN resolution to decriminalise homosexuality because in the proposal there was included at the same time the imposition of homosexual marriage in national law. Please, note well the word "imposition".
Furthermore, the Vatican was not alone in rejecting this possible resolution. Fewer than 50 member states of the UN have adhered to it. More than 150 members have rejected it.
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Monday, 26th January 2009 by Christian Peregin
Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg passionately defended the conservative ideals of the Nationalist Party yesterday during a political activity where he spoke about rent reform.
"The Nationalist Party is not a liberal party; we are Christian Democrats. We will only protect those who deserve protection," he said, referring to the government's rent reform proposals which have so far excluded protection of cohabiting and gay couples.
The Labour Party has criticised the reform for not catering for "today's realities", leaving such couples without a right to inherit the properties from their partners.
Speaking at a political activity in Balzan yesterday, Dr Borg brought up the issue again, saying that the Nationalist Party had a "social conscience" it had to abide by.
His words echoed the speech he gave in Parliament recently when responding to Labour's criticism - a speech that was described by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo as "offensive, cynical and derisory".
Dr Borg had said the aim of the rent reform was to protect "those who deserved protection" by restricting who can inherit the rented property.
"That's all we need now! After we've finally decided to limit inheritance to married couples and children, now we are expected to extend this protection to those who decide to go and live with someone of the same sex," he said in Parliament.
He argued that restricting inheritance to married couples would help to cut out abuse, whereas with gay or cohabitating couples things would get tricky because there is no documentation involved.
"Do you think we should create a register for those who are cohabitating?" he suggested sarcastically, addressing the Labour Party.
"So first you say you are against gay marriage, and then you say that the land owners should not only have to deal with married tenants but even those who went abroad, to Holland, to marry someone of the same sex and then returned to Malta expecting to be recognised by the landowner..."
Writing in Malta Today, Dr Bartolo said yesterday that, if the government had kept its promise to establish rights and obligations between couples who cohabitated, this would not have been an issue.
He added that Dr Borg's "sarcastic and cynical tone on gay couples was in stark contrast to what the PN told gay people during last year's electoral campaign".
PN MEP candidate Edward Demicoli says he is in favour of "the same civil rights" for cohabitating and gay couples, his stance highlighting a long-standing ideological divide within the Nationalist Party on such issues.
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Sunday, 25 January 2009
Sunday, 25th January 2009
Gozo Bishop Mario Grech yesterday urged Christians to take part in political debate, since the fusion between faith and reason was disintegrating.
Speaking during a visit by President Eddie Fenech Adami to the College of Parish Priests in Gozo, Mgr Grech said society was being led to believe that those who participated in politics could not think in Christian terms.
The bishop urged Catholics with opinions to voice them, not because they were Catholic but because they had a vision for society.
He quoted from Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on a lay State, where he stressed the importance of having a distinction between politics and religion, while at the same time having clear awareness about the irreplaceable function of religion.
"It is in this context that the Church is eager to cooperate with society to help in the whole development of its citizens," Mgr Grech said. During another occasion in Qormi last week, Mgr Grech said that lay Christians could not abdicate their participation in social life, especially those involved in politics.
"We cannot have a Church that does not distinguish itself from the rest of society. It is worrying if a Christian does not distinguish himself with his lifestyle, in a bid to conform," he said.
He said people should not be disheartened that the Church was no longer one for the masses, but was becoming a minority, adding metaphorically that a bit of salt went a long way to enhance the taste of food.
"Whoever does not accept Christ's teachings should be honest with themselves and excommunicate themselves from the Church," he said, alluding to a recent decision by a gay man who excommunicated himself to protest against the Pope's comments on homosexuality.
[Click on the hyperlink at the top to view the comments on timesofmalta.com]
I agree with Timothy Tabone (The Sunday Times, January 11) when he writes: "Rules and regulations are for the people and the people should not be there for the rules and regulations".
Those were indeed Jesus' own words, yet there is just one teeny-weeny problem here: Mr Tabone has used God's words out of context.
That aside, Mr Tabone goes on to state: "We must not only bend rules, but abolish them altogether".
I'm tempted to agree but we're missing something rather important here. While it is absolutely fine to "bend" and "abolish" man-made "rules" (more properly called norms and laws) it is totally unacceptable to "bend" or "abolish" God's "rules" (more properly called Commandments and/or Divine Law).
I shall never forget what one bus driver shouted (across the street) to another worker the other day: "It looks like the world is really going crazy these days! A man and a woman want to cohabit and two men want to get married! Gee..."
The Church will never bless these 'marriages'. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is openly in favour of homosexual relationships, and who Mr Tabone quoted enthusiastically, is an Anglican prelate. His words do not reflect the views of the Catholic Church.
The Church cannot "bend" or "abolish" God's laws. On the contrary, it must and actually does stick to them: "Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female" and that He [Jesus] said:
"This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh" (Matt: 19:5)?
Saturday, 24 January 2009
Saturday, 24th January 2009
A woman in a 40-year relationship is worried she'll be out on the streets because of the discriminatory rent laws being passed in Parliament.
Every morning Cettina*, 68, wakes up with knots in her stomach and a gripping fear that any day soon her partner will die and she will be thrown out on the streets by the landlord.
The couple, who have been cohabiting for 40 years, were never able to formalise their relationship because Cettina was previously married. She escaped her marital home in Canada with her daughter because her husband used to beat her. She never managed to track him down to start the process of annulment.
Having found a second chance at love in Leli*, today aged 72 and suffering from the debilitating Parkinson's disease, Cettina was eager that they found a place to call home. After four years, they rented a two-bedroom flat in Rue D'Argens, Sliema, which they have been living in since... but the rental clock is now ticking with the proposed rent reform legislation.
The crux of the problem is the reform does not recognise cohabiting couples in the same way it acknowledges those who are married, so on Leli's demise Cettina has no right to remain in the house because the rental papers are in her partner's name.
"The landlord has already told me: 'Once Leli dies you'd better find an alternative home because I'm taking over the place.' I'm sad and desperate," she admitted.
While the government is working to pre-empt abuse that would hinder the owner from ever getting his property back, it is letting cases such as Cettina's fall through the safety net, through its failure to recognise cohabiting couples. On the other hand, the proposed reform upholds the right of continuity for a surviving spouse and children to secure their position against ending up on the streets.
This distinction was highlighted in Parliament by Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat and Labour MP Evarist Bartolo, who stressed Malta needed legislation on civil partnerships of cohabiting or gay couples.
Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg had retorted during the debate that the government was being accused of not championing the rights of the owner and questioned whether Labour was looking to help those who decided to cohabit after they were widowed.
As the debate continues in Parliament, in the apartment where Cettina and Leli live the conversation is dominated by the fear of insecurity.
The couple have been trying to move out in order to stamp out the daily uncertainties but they live on one pension and they can ill-afford to buy or rent another place.
At present they pay the landlord an annual rental fee of €210, which was recently doubled from the €105 they used to pay a year after he fixed the structurally unsafe stairwell. They are not complaining; all they want is a two-roomed place where they can live their "last days" in peace.
However, the future does not look promising. They have been on the Housing Authority's waiting list for 13 years, "but we're obviously not a priority".
As they get older, the couple are feeling increasingly imprisoned in their Sliema flat, which has 60 uneven steps. Cettina is on the waiting list for a cartilage operation and suffers severe back problems and Leli also suffers from chronic obstructive lung disease, hypertension and glaucoma.
Bringing out their files of medical ailments, they look forlorn that the authority has failed to consider their problems and secure them a small, ground floor place.
"I have given up. I pray to God to end my life," she said, her eyes welling with tears.
"We're desperate. I am not protected by law and I'm just so, so scared."
*Names have been changed to protect the persons' identity.
[Click on the top hyperlink to view the comments on timesofmalta.com]
Saturday, 24th January 2009 by Matthew Saliba, Qormi
There has recently been a lot of talk about introducing divorce or the possibility that maybe Malta will acknowledge same-sex unions. However, the underlying argument always boils down to the fact that it is not within the ambit of the Catholic religion and rightly so! The Catholic Church, just like any other political or social institution, has the right to make its own rules and all those persons who decide to be members of such institution have every obligation to abide by all the rules imposed by it.
What most people fail to understand is the simple fact that the Church is not the State. Every individual has the right to choose how he wants to live, as long as it is within the ambits of the law, and divorce and same-sex unions are one such right. Just because the majority of people living in Malta are baptised, it does not mean that all 100 per cent of people in Malta are bound to obey the rules of the Church. That is what is ultimately meant by freedom of thought and democracy... the minority have rights too (not that I think that it is only the minority that are in favour of divorce or same-sex unions for that matter. Quite the contrary, I think it is the majority, but that is something a referendum would have to decide and not a mere mortal like me).
The bottom line is that it is not the Church that must approve, but the State since it is the State that represents 100 per cent of the people in Malta. Until the State, and the people, understand that one is not the other, we will keep on hearing the same arguments ad nauseam.
On a separate note, it is sad to observe that there is a dire need for blood and yet people who are not ashamed of declaring that they are LGBTs are not allowed to donate blood. This shows how mediocre this country is; we would rather have no blood to save lives with than take the blood of an LGBT... sad indeed! Maybe people fail to realise that being an LGBT is not contagious or are the authorities not performing the necessary tests on blood donated?
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First day at Church School
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Thursday, 22nd January 2009 by Frank Muscat, Sliema
For generations, Catholic gays and lesbians have struggled to reconcile their sexual orientation with their Church's strongly worded anti-homosexual teachings. Some, in despair, excommunicate themselves from the Church, others are empowered by pastorally-minded priests to go into same-sex partnerships, while others sadly suppress their sexuality to remain in the Church.
Daniel Helminiak, psychotherapist and professor of psychology at the University of West Georgia, USA, and author of What the Bible Really Says About Sexuality, is convinced the old Biblical, theological and psychological disputes have now been resolved in favour of gay and lesbian relationships; he calls the evidence "incontrovertible". According to Helminiak, the next step is "political". This in effect would mean to get the Church to change its stance. He suspects this will be a long struggle. I daresay it takes a lot of hope and hard work!
Hope is not synonymous with just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Hard work should primarily come from below, from what people, the marginalised, are doing or not doing. What would have happened if Catholics had never objected, mainly through dialogue, to the teachings of the Church on certain moral issues?
According to Fr Robert Egan, SJ, the Church "... justified the institution of slavery, tolerated and endorsed the oppression of women by men, defended the use of torture, blessed the crusades, the Inquisition, and the burning of heretics at the stake, cultivated a disdainful and punitive attitude toward the Jewish people, insisted that sexual intercourse was morally tolerable only for the sake of procreation, condemned democracy, ridiculed the idea of religious liberty, denied the legitimacy of the idea of human rights, and condemned the separation of Church and state" (Commonweal, April 11, 2008).
Fr Egan states that the last six teachings were only reversed at Vatican II through dialogue; moreover, all these teachings were probably considered "settled doctrine" by the authorities who promulgated and wrote about them. That should teach gay and lesbians something about not trying to bind the future to the current stage of their own comprehension. Since apostolic times the Church has always shown a remarkable ability to adapt its teachings in the light of new developments and knowledge. My late wife and I always showed the greatest respect for the gay and lesbian community. We strongly believed gay and lesbians have a right to commit themselves to an active same-sex partnership. We saw the Church's refusal to acknowledge and support the goodness and spiritually enrichment of this partnership as abandonment to other influences of promiscuity and self-centredness.
Pope Benedict XVI is rightly concerned about the breakdown of marital relationships in this day and age. Hence, his use of strong language against free unions, trial marriages and marriages by people of the same sex. For him, these forms of relationships are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that cause havoc to the common good.
I believe that under certain circumstances monogamous relationships outside marriage are morally wholesome; they need not be the end-product of unbridled lust and anarchic freedom. Moreover, they need not lead to the "destruction of God's work" as the Pope strongly warns.
While the Church has every right to bar gay and lesbian couples from sacramental marriage, these same couples should feel comfortable in receiving the Holy Eucharist provided they approach this sacrament with an informed conscience.
I also believe that same-sex couples should be granted rights and responsibilities by the state like their heterosexual counterparts - with one exception! My view is that on the balance of probability adoption by same-sex couples is not in the best interests of the child.
The forgoing is a tall order to expect the local gay and lesbian community to do, given the Minister of Social Policy John Dalli's negative stand on a proposed EU anti-discrimination directive.
He called the proposal "pre-mature" and turned down a request for a meeting with the Malta Gay Rights Movement (The Times, October 23, 2008). This does not augur well for compromise through true dialogue.
Columnist Kenneth Zammit Tabona is right in saying: "By attacking the Church with regard to divorce, abortion, bioethics, euthanasia, same-sex partnerships etc., we are allowing the government to hide behind ecclesiastical petticoats."(January 15).
MGRM should be wary of empty and misleading pre-electoral promises made by politicians about gay and lesbian rights and responsibilities.
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Wednesday, 21st January 2009 - 14:51CET
Many US troops in Iraq were overjoyed to see President Barack Obama take his oath, but some were unhappy about one thing the Democrat has promised to do: permit gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.
Obama said during his campaign he opposed a 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to work in the US military, widely referred to as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule.
This month, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, when asked whether the new administration planned to scrap the law, replied on the president's transition website: "You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'yes'."
But some of the 140,000 troops still in Iraq almost six years after the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein appear uneasy about the prospect. Specialist Joseph Watson, from Texas, was "pretty excited" to see America's first black president sworn in, he said, after watching Obama's inauguration on a big TV screen at the dining hall of Forward Operating Base Prosperity, in Baghdad.
But the 30-year-old was a lot less excited about Obama's inclination to repeal the ban on gay men and women serving.
"Ah, I think that might cause a lot of problems," he said. "It's a big moral issue. It's giving the OK, saying that being gay is alright. Personally, I don't think being gay is OK."
Each year, the US military kicks out hundreds of soldiers for "homosexual conduct", although numbers have fallen from 1145 in 1998 to 627 in 2007, according to its own figures.
Many US soldiers hail from Republican-voting "Red States", where opposition to abortion and homosexuality runs deep and many are concerned that a Democratic administration means higher taxes, gay marriage and laws restricting gun ownership.
Even soldiers from "Blue", Democrat-leaning U.S. states often hold Christian values they say clash with Obama's proposal.
Specialist Justin Scharan, from Washington State, battled to contain a smirk on his reddening face when asked his view.
"I'm Christian, so I really don't believe it's a good thing. But if it happens, there's not much we can do," he said.
Obama opposed California's ban on gay marriage in November. He has said he supports equal legal rights for same-sex couples, a topic of vociferous debate between liberals and conservatives.
He is expected to reverse many of former President George W. Bush's policies, including by closing the US military's Guantanamo Bay detention centre, banning interrogation techniques seen as torture, and scrapping funding restrictions on stem cell research.
But he may be mindful of former President Bill Clinton's early days, when he failed to push through a change of policy on gays serving in the military and drew fire from Christian groups.
Some soldiers questioned on inauguration day in Iraq thought it would be the wrong time to bring up such a sensitive issue with the United States facing multiple crises, from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a US recession and global economic turmoil.
"I don't agree with it," said Staff Sargeant Tavar Cradle. "I think there's other, bigger issues that could be dealt with."
But one US soldier, who asked not to be named or identified by rank, said he agreed with Obama on gays.
"Put it this way: if they're willing to fight for their country, to me, it doesn't make a difference. Everybody has a right to defend their country, even if they are gay."
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Tuesday, 20 January 2009
The PN stance had still been evident before last year's general elections, after representatives of the Malta Gay Rights Movement had met a delegation of the PN. The MGRM had submitted a list of proposals for the manifesto, but the most important for them had been the regulation and legal protection of such couples as enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
Malta needed other legislation on civil partnerships of cohabitating or gay couples. It was the absence of such legislation that was leading Labour to call for protection of such couples.
Long-standing cohabitating couples were scared of the prospects of one of the partners' demise and the ensuing effects, which could render the surviving partner homeless.
Mr Bartolo said that one major reason for Malta's accession to the EU had been the removal of strong social prejudices for people of other-than-heterosexual orientation. But last March an EU report had said that Malta was one of seven countries in which protection from discrimination against homosexuals existed only in employment legislation.
The report, which urged that such protection be extended to other areas, specifically housing, had also said there existed no machinery in Malta for such protection.
The EU was proposing the insertion of a directive against discrimination in several aspects, including gays. The government was maintaining that the directive was still premature and that things should be allowed to mature before incorporating such a directive in Maltese law. But at the pre-election meeting with the MGRM the government had said it was in favour of such a directive.
Concluding, Mr Bartolo said that if the government had followed this line in racism and disability, for example, the legislation would still have remained unchanged.
Earlier, the opposition's spokesman on the economy and the self-employed, Gavin Gulia, called on the government to withdraw the Commercial Rent Index proposal as this might not be practical.
He agreed that commercial rents increase by 15 per cent every three years. The Bill proposed that the index would be established, with objections referred to the Rent Regulation Board as from 2013 if the index had not been established by then.
He said he was very hesitant because the Rent Regulation Board's workload was more than enough.
He suggested that as a result of another proposal - that the commercial tenement would be reclaimed by the owner after 20 years - the House would agree to a percentage increase in commercial rent for the remaining period. He claimed that this would present a clearer picture and would avoid the complexity brought about by the establishment of the index.
This, he said, would also eliminate the need to file court applications to remedy such situations.
Labour MP José Herrera said his party's position on the Bill showed that it was not opportunistic but mature and responsible. It would vote in favour of the Bill in second reading but would be presenting a number of amendments in committee stage to safeguard the social aspects in the rent reform.
The Bill, he said, should not burden low income earners so that these would not suffer any hardship. The opposition expected that in substance, the government would accept the necessary amendments to safeguard the welfare state. This would also show that both sides of the House were aiming at political consensus on non-partisan issues.
Dr Herrera proposed that the title of the Bill be changed because it affected laws and ordnances other than those established under the Civil Code.
All remaining requisition orders should be removed and the rent of such tenements should be converted accordingly so that these would be at par with rents in the private sector as established under the 1995 Act. The Bill should apply in the same manner to all rented tenements.
Dr Herrera proposed that the Bill should include legal mechanisms to protect persons inheriting leases in case of the tenant's death and, more importantly, the budget for social housing should reflect this situation.
He said the Bill was not clear regarding the protection of requisitioned clubs. He said these should be protected to a certain limit so that social life would not be disrupted. But such protection should not be left to ministerial discretion.
Owen Bonnici (PL) said the Labour Party had taken a very pragmatic stand in the debate.
He said the rights of over-60 siblings of the tenant, who had also lived in the tenement for the past four years and were therefore promised protection and succession rights, should be extended to all siblings irrespective of their age.
On commercial leases Dr Bonnici said the Bill contained very drastic changes from the present scenario. One common phenomenon in his practice was when two people entered into an agreement saying that the rent would amount to €2.33 a day and after 10 years became permanent. The word "rent" of itself showed a finite contract. The government was proposing that such agreements be reduced to 20 years' duration from June 1, 2008. He was proposing that such contracts should be transformed with provisos that such leases could not be sub-let.
Contrary to other rumours, Labour wanted protection for clubs because of their social and cultural aspects. Having said this, the onus of such protection should not be borne by the private sector, but by the government. The fact that such protection could be accorded through subsequent legislation was not reassuring in a scenario where another minister might not share the appreciation of such clubs.
Dr Bonnici said that except for an initial period of a few years, persons who were not married but lived together with the tenant at the time of the latter's demise would have no protection. Such situations shone a warning light on the need to have legislation regulating cohabitation, which was becoming more and more diffused. The Bill was obviously intended to reduce protection in such cases of civil partnership and he could not propose such protection in the Bill, but the phenomenon of cohabitation was a growing reality.
The procedure under the Rent Regulation Board must be simplified. One of the problems was the subpoena of witnesses. By comparison, the procedure in the Industrial Tribunal was much more effective, to the tune that cases under the latter were usually concluded in months while others before the Rent Regulation Board usually lasted years.
The government should look into this situation and adopt the procedures of the Rent Regulation Board, concluded Dr Bonnici.
Luciano Busuttil (PL) said everyone agreed on the removal of social injustices to property owners, but certain tenants had to be given protection to avoid further social injustice. Children under five years, even having lived for less than four years in the tenement, had to be protected under the right to inheritance.
He agreed that lease contracts be in writing and registered accordingly, adding that the Bill should oblige contractors to register.
Dr Busuttil said that certain residential rents prior to 1995 were absurd. However, the new rent of €185 had to be reviewed after embarking on a social impact assessment so that the elderly and people passing through hard times because of the current economic situation would not face additional hardship. Capping on residential leases and restrictions to ministerial discretion had to be considered. Siblings of tenants, even if under 60, had to be protected.
On commercial rents, Dr Busuttil said that the 20-year clause should not apply to situations where there existed an agreement between property owners and tenants. One also had to consider that tenants were able to absorb the revised commercial rents.
The state has to intervene to do justice with owners but also to protect tenants as regards increases in rents where expenses for repairs were incurred by owners. The time limit for institutionalised persons had to be extended; otherwise one had to check that the institutionalised person would not be in a position to return to live in the rented premises.
The debate continues today.
At the beginning of yesterday's sitting, the House unanimously resolved that Labour MP Charles Buhagiar be appointed a member on the permanent planning development committee. He replaces Anthony Zammit (PL).
Monday, 19 January 2009
As at March 2008, the video has been viewed over 73,000 times. "Amnesty International" and the Publicis group also sent an e-mail with the TV spot attached to a database of over 56,000 e-mail addresses, thus setting in motion the whole viral mechanism around the initiative.
A short film for a greater cause. http://www.amnestyusa.org The spot will be presented as well at this years "Cannes International Film Festival" (14-25 May 2008) http://www.festival-cannes.fr/; project directed by JUAN VARELA and produced by Brenda Weiermair, Txetxu Lozano and Laura Bautista for SAATCHI & SAATCHI (Madrid, Spain) - SLIM KHEZRI stars as a Robber; visit Slim K Official Website http://www.slimk.cjb.net