Friday, 26 March 2010

Independent: Major discrimination against gay and lesbian people still takes place in all spheres
26.3.10 by Annaliza Borg

There are major cases of discrimination against gay and lesbian people everywhere, including in employment and the social rights sphere, said a Malta Gay Rights Movement representative last Wednesday during a debate entitled ‘Move Opens the Closet’.

The debate was organised by the progressive students organisation Move and led by Alistair Bugeja. Psychologist and university lecturer Mary Borg Cunen, Cyrus Engerer from the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Anthony Galea, a psychologist from LGBT Labour and Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi were on the panel. A number of students (although much fewer than the number of those who confirmed attendance on facebook) participated.

Mr Engerer, who is also a Nationalist Party councillor, said the road ahead was very long but we must start with defining family and adoption regulations in state legislation. Cohabitation, adoption and marriage rights were MGRM’s priority, he noted. Pointing out that single people and heterosexual couples who lived together could adopt children but gay or lesbian couples could not, Mr Engerer said this was unfair. Moreover, several LGBT people were having children from heterosexual encounters just for the sake of having children. Even children’s rights were not being protected because of lack of legislation, he said.

Addressing LGBT in education was very important, Mr Engerer said, as teachers did not know how to tackle bullying cases against students of particular sexual orientations. Gay people were still being sent away from home and deprived of shelter when they came out to their families explaining their sexual orientation. Cases of 14 to 20 year olds who sought refuge away from home were common, Mr Galea agreed.

Ms Borg Cunen said studies showed no problems in the upbringing of children by gay couples however discrimination in schools against children brought up by gay couples existed. She explained that homosexuality was not an orientation people chose, but which they realised when growing up. Some research points out it is genetically inherited. Slight differences in chromosomes, the brain and biology of heterosexual and homosexual people were noted.

Asked whether there was a need for a specific LGBT group within the Labour Party and whether this emphasised differences rather than ironing out difficulties, Mr Galea said the PL had taken the first initiative to give LGBT people a direct voice. The group was to help the PL in its work and work to abolish discrimination against gays.

However he did point out this group was made up of five to 10 members and “still very fluid”. It was working on a set of guidelines for its members and proposals for the party. “The PL may not agree with our ideas but we will push for them,” he said.

Peppi Azzopardi accused the PL of trying to make everyone happy but taking no particular stand in favour of LGBT. Being a left-wing party, it should act otherwise, he said.

“Imagine the case of a man and a woman who decide they want to get married and have children but the state does not allow them. This is the situation with gay couples and it is totally unfair,” he said.

Although before the last general elections, the Nationalist Party had called for a stop against gay discrimination, promised that cohabitation would be recognised and the promotion of equality would be taken care of by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, nothing was done.

Alternattiva Demokratika was the party speaking in accordance with full LGBT rights.

Meanwhile, the state was still providing books with illustrations of the stereotype cereal box family – a man and a woman with two children, a boy and a girl.

“I have to show and explain to my son that other family structures are normal,” Mr Azzopardi said.

He also noted that homophobia was linked with false impressions that LGBT people abused others.

Participating students had harsh words about MEP Simon Busuttil who attended the last gay pride parade but then took a particular vote against gays recently.

“What did he come for,” they wondered.

Similarly, students complained against a recent statement which President George Abela made in favour of traditional families while excluding other family structures, during a conference on the family. Gozo Bishop Mario Grech also seemed to pick on gays, discriminating against them time and time again.

The panel believed the Church had its own ideals and should only act as a lobby group. State legislation should be completely independent.

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