Friday, 29 January 2010

MGRM: John Dalli and Transgender Rights


The MGRM congratulates Minister Dalli on his nomination as EU Commissioner and his creditable performance in his interview with MEP’s last Thursday. However, in view of the portfolio of Health and Consumer Policy he has been assigned, MGRM would like to express its concern regarding the position Minister Dalli expressed with regards to access to health for transgendered persons. This took place during a public dialogue meeting held last December at St Margaret’s College Boys Secondary.

At this meeting Gabi Calleja on behalf of MGRM asked Minister Dalli what he was doing to ensure that health services were truly accessible to all citizens including transgender persons. She also stated that financial considerations should not be the only criterion by which decisions on access to services should be based.

Minister Dalli replied that Maltese health services are non-discriminatory and available to young, old, women, men, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds alike. However, if someone wanted a nose job done and this was not on the list of services offered by the National Health Services, then this did not constitute discrimination.

In essence, the Minister compared hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to a nose-job. His response was in fact out of sync with court rulings with regards to access to gender reassignment surgery for transsexuals at the European level. These include van Kück v. Germany (12 June 2003) where the court ruled there was a violation of Article 8, the Right to Private Life and held that where a health insurance plan covers "medically necessary" treatment, gender reassignment must be included and Schlumpf v. Switzerland (8 Jan. 2009) where the Court ruled also on the basis of Article 8, The Right to Private Life, that the national court should have considered an exception to the rule requiring two years of non-surgical treatment before the cost of surgery could be reimbursed.

MGRM representatives also attended the public dialogue meeting held by Minister Dolores Cristina where she was asked what was being done to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. The Minister’s response was unconvincing simply stating that bullying in schools happens for various reasons and affects other groups other than gay people and referred to PSD lessons as a means of tackling this issue.

Minister Tonio Borg was asked what was being done regarding the incorrect transposition of the Freedom of Movement Directive where it referred to same-sex partners. In his response the Minister failed to acknowledge that the directive was incorrectly transposed. He emphasised that only 3rd country nationals who are spouses had the right to enter Malta. This is in fact not in line with the spirit of the Directive which states that EU countries should facilitate entry of third country nationals where a durable relationship can be duly attested such as through a civil partnership obtained in another EU country. The Minister reiterated that the PN’s and one assumes, the government’s position remains that marriage was between a man and a woman. He emphasised that any cohabitation legislation that might be introduced would have the aim of acting as a basic safety net to protect the weaker party and was not intended as a validation of the relationship.

While MGRM appreciates the opportunity to pose questions to leading politicians in such public fora, the exercise was somewhat disappointing in that it confirmed the lack of a serious commitment to equality demonstrated by the present government.

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