Monday, 31 May 2010

IGLHRC: IGLHRC and CEDEP Commend Presidential Pardon in Malawi

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)


(May 29, 2010, Cape Town) – Today’s order for the unconditional pardon and immediate release from prison of Tionge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza by Malawian President and African Union Chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika is a welcome one. The two have been serving a sentence of 14 years imprisonment with hard labor for their convictions under the Malawi Penal Code prohibitions on "unnatural offences" (Section 153) and "indecent practices between males” (Section 156). They have been in custody since their arrest in December. President wa Mutharika made the announcement in a joint press conference in Lilongwe with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“We commend President Mutharika for arriving at a decision that prevents two innocent people from spending years in prison without just cause,” said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “This pardon should be seen as a significant challenge to laws and proceedings that are inherently unfair. However, it should not require a presidential intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Malawians to obtain justice.

“We applaud President Mutharika for this bold decision,” said Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of People. “As Chairperson of the African Union, his actions should set a precedent for African leaders to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all Africans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. We hope that the President now pardons all Malawians imprisoned on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that the judiciary overturns all such convictions, and that the government ensures the constitutional rights to equality and non-discrimination for all.

For more information, see the Malawi archive of IGLHRC at:

For general media inquiries, please contact:
Sam Cook, Director of Communications, IGLHRC (New York): (212) 430-6023; Email:

Times: Malawi gay couple freed after pardon
Sunday, 30th May 2010 - 12:10CET; PA

A gay couple pardoned by Malawi's president has been released from jail, a prisons spokesman said today.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were released late last night, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them without condition.

The spokesman stressed that homosexuality remained illegal in the conservative southern African country.

It was not clear where the men went after their release. They were not at their Blantyre home today.

Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and 14-year sentences given to the two men, who were arrested in December, a day after celebrating their engagement.

Malawi is among 37 African countries with anti-gay laws.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]


Times: Malawi pardons gay couple
Sunday, 30th May 2010; AFP

Malawi's president yesterday pardoned and ordered the release of gay couple

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika yesterday announced the pardon of a gay married couple jailed for 14 years after holding a same-sex wedding, following talks with UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

"I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released," Mutharika told reporters as he sat beside the UN secretary general.
"From a humanitarian point of view, they are released and pardoned forthwith."

Ban commended the lifting of the sentence, which had been met with outrage and alarm by the US, Europe and rights groups, and called on Malawi's parliament to change the country's laws.

A Blantyre court recently sentenced Steven Monjeza, 26, and his 20-year-old partner Tiwonge Chimbalanga to 14 years hard labour for sodomy, after they were arrested on December 28 following a symbolic wedding.

"I do appreciate and commend the very courageous decision to pardon these two gay boys," Ban said, adding, "This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist."

"Any harassment or violation or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation is discriminatory. It's against international human rights law," Ban said.

In an address to parliament, he called on lawmakers to change the legislation regarding gay sex, which is illegal in Malawi and a majority of African countries.
"I am confident that Malawi will take appropriate steps to update its laws in a way that lives up to international standards," he told a press conference afterwards.
Ban said Mutharika had told him that he been considering a pardon.

"President Mutharika told me it is not because of foreign pressure but he is exercising his presidential power," he said.

The May 20 ruling was condemned by Western countries with the US saying it was "appalled", and former colonial power Britain saying it was "deeply dismayed".
Leading Aids campaigners also voiced concern that the jailing could hurt the fight against the disease, widespread in southern Africa, by forcing gay men underground. But the couple's case shocked Malawi's conservative society, where sex topics are still largely taboo.

Handing down sentence on May 20, magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa told the two men that the maximum punishment with hard labour was to serve as an example to Malawians.
"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," the judge added.
"Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons."

In January, the couple had appealed to the Constitutional Court to toss out the case, but the top court refused to hear the appeal.

"They injured our traditions and culture," Mutharika said yesterday before announcing the pardon.

"They challenged our laws in this country. These two gay boys were wrong," he said. Thirty-eight out of 53 African countries criminalise consensual gay sex, which is punishable by death in some nations, according to Human Rights Watch.

Nearby South Africa is the only country in the continent to recognise same-sex marriages.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.

Times: Gays can be as 'manly' as 'straight' people

Sunday, 30th May 2010; Matthew Saliba, Qormi

A popular TV programme that aired last Sunday featured two teams competing against each other. This is the standard operating procedure for this programme as it gets people from opposite walks of life to compete amicably. The programme in itself is entertaining and professionally produced and presented.

Notwithstanding this, I found it somewhat offensive that last Sunday's teams were 'Stuntman' versus 'Gays'. Can anyone explain why these categories are deemed as being opposite?

Does the fact that a person is gay automatically mean that he or she is not capable of being a stuntman, that is, an adventurous person who likes an adrenaline rush?

This is the exact type of misinformation that creates the stereotype whereby people who do not know gays think a person who is gay is not capable of doing so-called 'manly' activities in life.

I happen to know a number of gay people who are much more capable of performing 'manly' activities than 'straight' people.

This depiction of 'gays' as being delicate people is a source of discrimination, and gay people who took part in the programme were nothing but self-discriminating.

I happen to know that the producers and presenter are people who not only treat gays as equals, but stand up for their rights too. So I found it somewhat appalling that they thought of these categories as opposites.

What does the Malta Gay Rights Movement have to say?

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Sunday, 30 May 2010

BBC: News: Malawi pardons jailed gay couple
Saturday, 29 May 2010 17:14 UK

A gay couple jailed in Malawi after getting engaged have been pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mr Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited his country, said he had ordered their immediate release.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were given 14-year jail terms earlier this month after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The case has sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.

Mr Ban hailed the president's decision as "courageous".

"This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist," he said.

The BBC's Karen Allen, in Lilongwe, says Mr Ban is trying to put pressure on parliamentarians to reform anti-homosexuality laws that date back to colonial times.

'Culture of hate'

Correspondents say Malawi is a deeply conservative society where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism.


The president has certainly gone against public opinion in pardoning the gay men. What we have seen recently is a boldening of public opinion against gay rights.

But this issue is causing friction between Western governments and several African nations which have similar legislation.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction is on the rest of the continent. There is talk of constitutional change in a number of countries across Africa which, theoretically at least, could see gay people protected.

But so far, South Africa is the only country on the continent to legislate for gay rights. If public opinion does not change, it is unlikely many other countries will follow their lead.

Mr Mutharika, who has in the past dismissed homosexuality as alien, said he had set them free on humanitarian grounds.

"In all aspects of reasoning, in all aspects of human understanding, these two gay boys were wrong - totally wrong," he said after meeting Mr Ban.

"However, now that they have been sentenced, I as the president of this country have the powers to pronounce on them and therefore, I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released."

Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested in December 2009 after celebrating their engagement. They have been in custody ever since.

Their lawyers say the two men are likely to be freed by Monday.

Our correspondent says there are plenty of people who were not sorry to see the men go to jail, many of whom will be slightly puzzled at the president's announcement.

Gift Trapence, from the campaign group Centre for the Development of People, welcomed the decision.

"We're very happy and we praise the president for his maturity, but there is still a long way to go to end the culture of hate," he said.

External pressure

Aid donors and human rights groups have been putting pressure on his government to respect the rights of minority groups.

The UK government, Malawi's biggest donor, said it was dismayed by the sentencing, and the US labelled it a step backwards for human rights.

Malawi map

On Saturday, British popstar and Aids campaigner Sir Elton John wrote an open letter to Mr Mutharika in the UK's Guardian newspaper pleading for the release of the pair.

"Their trial and harsh sentencing will have a perilous effect on our continuing efforts to combat Aids in Malawi and potentially reverse the gains we have achieved," he said.

The two men were convicted under a law dating back to colonial rule by Britain.

Many of Britain's former colonies have similar laws outlawing homosexuality; India overturned its anti-homosexuality law last year.

In Uganda, MPs are debating whether to strengthen the laws to include the death penalty for some gay people - a move which has infuriated Western governments and rights campaigners.

Friday, 28 May 2010

L-Orizzont: F’rapport ta’ Amnesty International dwar il-qagħda d-drittijiet tal-bniedem: Malta akkużata li poġġiet ħajjet migranti fil-periklu
28.5.10 minn Sammy Sammut

Malta u l-Italja ssemmew bl-aktar mod prominenti minn Amnesty International minħabba l-pożizzjoni iebsa li qegħdin jieħdu kontra l-immigranti u l-prattika li dawn qabdu li jibgħatu d-dgħajjes bl-immigranti fuqhom lura lejn il-pajjiżi minn fejn suppost ikunu telqu minnhom, ġieli wkoll mingħajr ma jittieħed kont tal-ħtiġijiet li jista’ jkollhom il-persuni abbord.

Fl-aħħar rapport tagħha dwar il-qagħda tad-drittijiet tal-bniedem f’kull rokna tad-dinja, Amnesty International takkuża lil Malta li poġġiet fil-periklu l-ħajja ta’ migranti u dawk li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil minħabba dewmien f’ħidmiet ta’ salvataġġ fuq il-baħar. Min-naħa l-oħra, dawk l-immigranti li jirnexxielhom jinżlu l-art komplew jinżammu f’detenzjoni u dan bi ksur ta’ stadards internazzjonali. Barra minn hekk, kienu wkoll ikkritikati l-kundizzjonijiet ħżiena li għadhom jinżammu fihom dawk detenuti minkejja l-isforzi li saru mill-awtoritajiet Maltin biex itejjbu xi wħud mill-istess faċilitajiet.

Amnesty International tesprimi t-tħassib tagħha għall-fatt li l-kriżi ekonomika u finanzjarja dinjija wasslet biex tkompli tħeġġeġ aktar d-diskriminazzjoni, r-rażżismu u x-xenofobija fl-Ewropa. “L-emarġinazzjoni kompliet tintensifika fl-2009 kawża tal-biża’ mqanqla mill-kriżi ekonomika, u akkumpanjata f’ħafna mill-pajjiżi b’żieda qawwija fir-rażżismu u diskorsi ta’ mibgħeda fil-pubbliku”, jgħid ir-rapport annwali li għadu kemm kien ippubblikat.

Kundizzjonijiet ħżiena f’postijiet ta’ detenzjoni

L-akbar kritika kontra Malta minn Amnesty International kienet fir-rigward tad-drittijiet ta’ migranti, refuġjati u dawk li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil. Takkuża lill-awtoritajiet Maltin li naqsu milli jipproteġu b’mod adegwat il-ħajja ta’ migranti li kienu ġew salvati mill-baħar, waqt li ssemmi b’mod speċifiku l-każi fejn il-Gvern Malti u dak Taljan ma qablux dwar min minnhom kien responsabbli għal ħidmiet ta’ tiftix u salvataġġ bir-riżultat li damu biex wieġbu għas-sejħiet għall-għajnuna li sarulhom.

Amnesty International fakkret li f’Jannar li għadda, il-Working Group tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar id-Detenzjoni Arbitrarja kien esprima t-tħassib tiegħu dwar jekk tassew hemmx bażi legali għad-detenzjoni ta’ migranti u dawk li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil. Dan il-Working Group kien innota li d-detenzjoni f’Malta hija awtomatika u mandatorja għall-migranti rregolari kollha, inkluż ukoll dawk li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil. Jgħid ukoll li l-liġi ma tistipulax il-massimu kemm persuna tista’ tibqa’ tinżamm detenuta, u li dan it-tul ta’ żmien ħafna drabi ma jkunx relatat mal-każ partikolari tal-individwu.

Fil-prattika, il-Gvern Malti japplika massimu ta’ sena detenzjoni għal dawk li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil u li l-applikazzjoni tagħhom tkun għadha pendenti. Dawk li jkollhom l-applikazzjoni tagħhom miċħuda kif ukoll l-immigranti rregolari kollha li ma jkunux ġew mġiegħla jmorru lura lejn pajjiżhom jew lejn il-pajjiżi terzi li minnhom ikunu telqu fuq il-baħar, ħafna drabi jinħelsu wara tmintax-il xahar detenzjoni.

Amnesty International tgħid ukoll li huwa kontra l-Konvenzjoni Ewropea tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem il-fatt li deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu dwar l-applikazzjonijiet għal ażil u d-detenzjoni jistgħu jiġu kkontestati biss quddiem il-Bord tal-Appelli dwar l-Immigrazzjoni, bord li ma jagħmilx parti mill-ġudikatura.

Amnesty International tisħaq ukoll li l-kundizzjonijiet fiċ-ċentri ta’ detenzjoni għadhom ħżiena. Issemmi l-fatt li fiċ-Ċentru ta’ Ħal Far hemm aktar minn 500 persuna li qegħdin ikollhom jgħixu taħt it-tined. Fl-istess waqt li tagħmel dan, però, tirrikonoxxi l-fatt li l-awtoritajiet qegħdin jipprovaw itejjbu l-faċilitajiet provduti u ssemmi l-ftuħ ta’ faċilità ġdida ta’ detenzjoni f’Ta’ Kandja, u r-rinnovament taċ-ċentru f’Lyster Barracks.

Nuqqas ta’ tolleranza lejn persuni LGBT

Fir-rapport tagħha, Amnesty International tirreferi wkoll għall-fatt li l-awtoritjiet f’għadd ta’ pajjiżi komplew ixerrdu klima ta’ intolleranza lejn komunitajiet ta’ persuni lesbjani, gay, bisesswali u transesswali (LGBT) b’mod li qegħdin jagħmluha ferm aktar diffiċli biex id-drittijiet ta’ dawn il-persuni jkunu tassew protetti.

“Stati membri tal-Unjoni Ewropea (fosthom Malta) komplew jimblukkaw direttiva reġjonali ġdida kontra d-diskriminazzjoni, li sempliċiment timla’ l-vojt legali li jeżisti biex ikunu protetti dawk li qegħdin jesperjenzaw diskriminazzjoni lil ’l hinn minn fuq il-post tax-xogħol tagħhom u dan minħabba d-diżabilità, it-twemmin, ir-reliġjon, l-orjentazzjoni sesswali jew l-età tagħhom”, tgħid Amnesty International.

MaltaToday: Gay rights group lists seven priorities
26.5.10 by Raphael Vassallo

It’s not just in football that Malta tends to under-perform: according to the Rainbow Europe Country index, a report compiled by the International Gay and Lesbian Organisation, Malta scored the barest minimum possible (one point out of a maximum 10) for legislation protecting LGBT persons.
Gaby Calleja, chairperson of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, is not particularly surprised.
“Malta still lags very far behind when it comes to legislation and implementation,” she points out before listing seven key areas where the MGRM feels there is ample room for iprovement.
These are: equality; the provision of goods and services; legislation to allow transsexual people to marry; identity issues concerning transgender individuals; recognition of same-sex unions; reproductive rights, and finally; adoption.
Gaby Calleja agreed to walk us through them on by one.
1) With legislation as it stands, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality does not have the remit to address issues of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MGRM feels its remit should be extended accordingly.
2) There is nothing in Maltese law at the moment to prevent (for example) a hotel or restaurant from denying persons a service because they are a same-sex couple... which is the most common form this kind of prejudice takes, though there are others.
3) The main issues at stake here all surfaced in the recent case brought against the Marriage Registrar by Joanna Cassar: born male, but registered as a woman after successfully undergoing gender reassignment therapy. Despite having had her new sex formally acknowledged by means of a revised birth certificate – and initially winning a lawsuit against the registrar of marriages, who initially refused to issue the relevant marriage banns – Cassar was nonetheless denied the ability to get married after the registrar successfully appealed against the first judgement.
The second ruling was condemned by the MGRM – among others – on the grounds that it defied case law as established by the European Court of Human Rights, namely Christine Goodwin vs. UK. The matter is now subject to a Constitutional court case, and the next hearing is scheduled for June 23.
4) Transgender people still face considerable legal difficulties in having their new gender recognised at law: for instance, in the issuing of ID cards. The law itself is also particularly stringent, as it only considers a person at post-op stage, and even then, the authorities insist on a full medical examination, which the MGRM feels is invasive.
5) The issue here is marriage equality – if not marriage itself – and as such Calleja stresses that MGRM is not in favour of cohabitation legislation aimed merely at recognising partnerships without supplying corresponding rights and obligations. Instead, the association is pressing for the recognition of full civil unions on a par with marriage.
6) Technically this is an issue where legislation is non-existent for all members of society, regardless of sexual orientation. Malta in fact still lacks a legislative framework for assisted fertility, although parliament’s social affairs committee is currently debating a proposed bill. Issues such as IVF, surrogate motherhood, etc., are of particular relevance to same-sex couples, and the MGRM has voiced its concern at restrictive proposals by the committee (e.g., limiting IVF only to married couples) which would discriminate against LGBT individuals.
7) Adoption by a single parent is already a possibility according to Maltese law, so the issue here concerns mainly adoption by same-sex couples. Calleja lists two specific areas where legislation is required: “second-parent adoption”: i.e., where the same-sex partner of a biological parent can adopt his or her partner’s children; and third party adoption, which is currently off-limits for all non-married couples, be they same-sex or not.
Of all seven priorities, only one - number 4 - is currently being discussed at any level within government. The MGRM is in the process of drawing up a position paper, to be submitted for consideration in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

UN: Sentencing of Malawi gay couple a dangerous precedent

GENEVA (21 May 2010) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday that the prosecution and sentencing of 14 years imprisonment with hard labour for a Malawian gay couple, imposed by a court in Malawi on Thursday, is “blatantly discriminatory” and sets an alarming precedent in the region for the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as groups that support them.

“I am shocked and dismayed by the sentence and reports of the treatment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga while in detention,” Pillay said. “The law which enabled the conviction dates back to the colonial era and has lain dormant for a number of years – rightly so, because it is discriminatory and has the effect of criminalizing and stigmatizing people based on perceptions of their identity. If this was replicated worldwide, we would be talking about the widespread criminalization of millions of people in consensual relationships and the rampant violation of privacy.”

“Laws that criminalize people on the basis of their sexual orientation are by their nature discriminatory, and as such are in apparent violation of a number of key international treaties and instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights*,” Pillay said “Unfortunately they still exist in quite a number of countries across the world. The trend should be towards getting rid of them, as is the case with other forms of discrimination. Instead, some countries, including Malawi, seem to be heading in the opposite direction.”

The High Commissioner called for the conviction to be repealed and for the penal codes criminalizing homosexuality to be reformed.

She said she was also concerned that this case appears to have stimulated a marked deterioration in official and public attitudes in Malawi, not just towards individuals perceived as being homosexual but also towards organizations that speak out about sexual orientation and related issues, including ones doing vital work to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS.

“I fear the reverberations of this decision, along with the recent attempt to bring in a new draconian bill aimed at homosexuals in Uganda, could have severe repercussions throughout the African continent,” Pillay said. “It will inevitably drive same-sex couples underground, and if this trend continues and spreads, not only will it mark a major setback to civil liberties, it could have a disastrous effect on the fight against HIV/AIDS. So, in addition to the serious moral and legal ramifications of this decision, it raises intensely practical problems as well.”

The High Commissioner dismissed the argument that non-discrimination against people on the grounds of sexual orientation is a cultural issue. “It is a question of fundamental rights,” she said, “not one of geography, history or disparate cultures. The protection of individuals against discrimination is pervasive in international human rights law. Why should it be suspended for this one group of human beings?”

(*) Article 2:Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status. Article 19:All peoples shall be equal; they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Press release

Di-ve: Malta given poor ranking on gay rights
by John Paul Cordina -; Current Affairs; 25 May 2010; 14:10CEST

Malta’s gay rights record was given a low ranking in a recent publication by the European arm of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe), with just 3 EU member states faring worse.

ILGA-Europe recently released its Rainbow Europe Country Index on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, which was marked for the 6th time this year. The index rates European countries on legislation affecting the human rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The ranking gives up to 3 points for anti-discrimination laws, partnership recognition of same-sex couples and parenting and adoption rights of same-sex couples, as well as an additional point if criminal laws on hate speech include references to sexual orientation. In addition, a point is deducted for the violation of freedom of assembly, violation of freedom of association/expression, unequal age of consent and where same-sex acts are illegal.

Malta received no negative points, but only received 1 point for its anti-discrimination legislation, which prevents discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the area of employment, but not on goods and services. Same-sex couples have no legal recognition, parenting or adoption rights; although since unmarried persons can resort to assisted reproduction, same-sex couples have used them to bear children in the past, facing no problem to do so in the private clinics which perform such services.

Every EU member state prevents discrimination in the area of employment. However, 3 member states – Cyprus, Latvia and Poland – fared worse than Malta as the 1 point was cancelled out by discriminative legislation or practices. In Cyprus’ case, this was due to differing ages of consent, while violations of freedom of assembly affected the other 2 countries’ scores.

Only 1 country – Sweden – received the maximum 10 points, although Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain received 9 points only because their anti-discrimination laws are not enshrined in their constitution. All 5 countries recognise same-sex marriage, joint adoption by same-sex couples and protection from discrimination on employment, goods and services.

5 non-EU European countries – Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, Russia and the Ukraine – received negative scores, as did the internationally unrecognised Turkish republic of North Cyprus, the only area within Europe where homosexuality is against the law, although the legislation is rarely enforced.

Nevertheless, Europe remains one of the regions where gay rights are strongest. Gay people face the death penalty in certain African and Middle Eastern countries, and jail terms in many other countries worldwide.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on Di-ve.]

Times: Cohabitation is no alternative to divorce
Wednesday, 26th May 2010; Talking Point by Lorraine Schembri Orland

When the Standing Committee on Social Affairs of the House of Representatives invited the public to air its views on cohabitation, it may have rolled open the proverbial can of worms. Why cohabitation and not divorce was the almost palpable reaction and, indeed, much of the public's discussion on this issue has been to assimilate what should be a debate on cohabitation to a debate on a de facto marriage.
I must disagree. Cohabitation is not marriage and cannot certainly be an alternative to divorce. It is true that couples may live together out of necessity because one or both cannot remarry. Yet, it is equally true that couples do choose to live together not only because they cannot marry but despite the fact they can. Whatever the underlying reason, these unions do cause consequences, social and financial, on society.

Undeniably, a law which regulates cohabitation will imbue this state of fact with legitimacy. One would expect a radical shift in legal and judicial thinking in the approach to cohabitees. Would it still be valid to order that children of a separated couple would not be "exposed to the presence of a third party with whom the parent is in a relationship" once cohabitation will be legally recognised?

A primary focus should remain the preservation of marriage as an institution. This is precisely why cohabitation is not, and cannot be, considered to be an alternative to divorce. The state and society have an obligation to safeguard marriage as an institution; a stable marriage is the cornerstone of a stable society and marital breakdown places an enormous financial and social burden on society.

It is not the aim of any legislator to weaken marriage as an institution or to package cohabitation as a valid alternative to marriage. If we agree that the breakdown of a marriage will produce a ripple effect through society, when marriage is based on a lifelong commitment, how much more of a ripple effect would be a series of unions based on lesser commitments?

What rights and duties should cohabitation give rise to without thereby creating a pseudo-marriage?

If we depart from the premise that marriage is a public commitment by a couple to enter into a permanent union we immediately realise that cohabitation has no such premise or enduring aim. Consequently, it cannot be assessed on the same level. Yet, marriage creates a partnership, both personal and economic, between husband and wife, from which the rights to maintenance (support), property, home and inheritance flow logically.

Should a cohabitee of five years be entitled to the same pension rights as a wife of 25 years, based on a less permanent union? Again, the surviving spouse has a right to use and habitation to the matrimonial home. If this spouse were to enter into a relationship and cohabit, would the surviving partner deflect the rights of the heirs to that property? What of rights of maintenance and pension acquired by deed of separation? Are these to be affected in favour of a cohabitee? Are we to confront the cohabitee with the spouse?

The focus of the legislator should be on applying equity and fairness in order to redress the inequality cohabitation may have brought on one partner to the benefit of the other. This underpins UK proposals on cohabitation. It is interesting that the Law Commission in the UK has not recommended registration for heterosexual unions (although civil partnerships between homosexual couples are to be registered) arguing that a weaker partner who would not be able to insist on registration will be denied the protection of the law. The commission further points out that registration would bring about a new status of "registered cohabitant" and that "this would jeopardise the support of many who have expressed support for reform but who are concerned to protect the institution of marriage".

One should therefore consider: a) whether registration is necessary; b) the minimum duration required for eligibility; c) capacity; d) rights and duties; e) fault; f) limitation of actions; g)Jurisdiction of the Family Court; h) validity and effect of cohabitation contracts and i) recognition of foreign cohabitation agreements.

Focusing on redressing the inequality will not create an alternative to marriage but will redress social and economic needs. For example, if one of the partners has opted out of work and a career to care for the children of the union, then the other partner who may have benefited should be obliged to equalise the financial disadvantage existing on termination. Maintenance in several legal systems is translated into a capital sum paid over a required period rather than an obligation to maintain the other partner per se as the expectancy is that both will work and be financially independent. Costs would include providing for a home. Tenancy rights can also be considered saving third party rights.

Children are fully regulated in our legal system. Children born out of marriage have the same rights against their parents as those born in wedlock and are already within the purview of the Family Court.

Such a law cannot be retroactive and must be drafted prudently. As stated, it is not only what is to be included that is important but what is not.

Dr Schembri Orland specialises in matrimonial and family law.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Malta ranked low in gay rights
Tuesday, 25th May 2010; Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

A gay rights demonstration held recently in Valletta.

Malta's laws do not yet do enough to protect the rights of gay, lesbian and transsexual people, according to an EU-wide index published by ILGA, the international gay and lesbian association.

The island gained just one point out of a maximum of 10 in an index measuring legislation affecting the human rights of LGBT people.

Malta's only law that guarantees that no discrimination is permitted on the basis of sexual orientation is related to employment. On the other hand, the island still lacks laws in the Constitution or that give rights in relation to the provision of goods and services, while hate speech is still not considered a crime where sexual orientation is involved.

According to the Rainbow Europe Country Index, Malta is grouped with the countries that have the poorest level of protection of human rights to the gay community, together with a number of Catholic/Orthodox strongholds such as Italy and Greece.

The rating places a country on a scale between 10 (maximum positive score) and -4 (maximum negative score) and is an average of total possible positive and negative points.

Positive points are awarded to a country whose laws safeguard against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, which recognise same-sex partnership, parenting rights of same-sex partners, and cover homophobia in hate speech/crime legislation.

The negative points are awarded to the countries with laws banning same-sex sexual acts, that have unequal age of consent, and violate the rights of LGBT people to peaceful assembly and freedom of association. With just one point, Malta is not at the bottom of the index since Poland, Latvia and Cyprus are considered to be the least tolerant, all obtaining a zero score, on a par with the Vatican City.

On the other side of the scale, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain (obtaining between nine and 10 points) are considered to be the most liberal countries in the EU, where same-sex marriages and the adoption of children by gay couples is permitted and recognised by the state.

"Although on paper many think we are becoming more tolerant, there is nothing to boast about, if Malta is still behind countries like Bulgaria and Romania when it comes to our basic human rights," Gaby Calleja, from the Malta Gay Rights Movement, said when contacted.

"We have been campaigning for years to be given our rights such as the enactment of important legislation when it comes to the acquisition of goods and services and the right of recognising same-sex cohabitation. However, despite the lip-service of the political parties we are still were we used to be years ago where legislation in involved," Ms Calleja said.

Currently, just four countries in the EU allow people of the same sex to marry. However, the majority of the member states have some sort of legislation recognising registered partnerships or cohabitation. Some are even allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. With regard to homosexuality toleration, the index shows that the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus is the only territory in the EU where homosexuality is against the law. This legislation, however, is rarely enforced.

Elsewhere in the world, gay people face the death penalty in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, the Islamist parts of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Uganda is also considering bringing in capital punishment for homosexual acts.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Gay conviction in Malawi is alarming precedent - UN commissioner
Human Rights; Monday, 24th May 2010; AFP

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza being led from court in Blantyre, Malawi, after a judge sentenced the couple to the maximum 14 years in prison for unnatural acts and gross indecency under Malawi's anti-gay legislation. Photo: Alex Ntonya/AP

The UN human rights chief has slammed the "blatantly discriminatory" jailing of a gay couple in Malawi, saying that it sets an alarming precedent for the treatment of homosexuals in the region.

"I am shocked and dismayed by the sentence and reports of the treatment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga while in detention," said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"The law which enabled the conviction dates back to the colonial era and has lain dormant for a number of years - rightly so, because it is discriminatory and has the effect of criminalising and stigmatising people based on perceptions of their identity," she added.

Ms Pillay said the conviction should be repealed and penal codes that criminalise homosexuality reformed.

"Laws that criminalise people on the basis of their sexual orientation are by their nature discriminatory, and as such are in apparent violation of a number of key international treaties and instruments," said Ms Pillay.

She also warned that the move would drive homosexuals underground, and potentially have a "disastrous effect" on the fight against AIDS.

"It is a question of fundamental rights, not one of geography, history or disparate cultures," Ms Pillay added.

"The protection of individuals against discrimination is pervasive in international human rights law. Why should it be suspended for this one group of human beings?"
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested on December 28 after holding an illegal same-sex wedding, accused of violating "the order of nature".

US singer Madonna also condemned their sentence.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Sunday, 23 May 2010

YouTube: A Single Man [Tom Ford]

Movie Trailer, 2009, Directed by Tom Ford, Featuring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

English professor at a Los Angeles area college, is finding it difficult to cope with life. Jim, his personal partner of sixteen years, died in a car accident eight months earlier when he was visiting with family. Jim's family were not going to tell George of the death or accident let alone allow him to attend the funeral.

Times: Regulated cohabitation 'no answer to divorce'
Saturday, 22nd May 2010 by Juan Ameen

The regulation of cohabitation would never be an answer to questions of divorce and gay marriage, according to Fr Peter Serracino Inglott.

There had always been a need for a law on cohabitation for the sake of justice and social order, he said, but the government should focus its efforts on the more pressing issue of divorce, making a clear distinction between the two.

"While I believe there is need for a law on cohabitation, I believe the problem of divorce is more important than this," Fr Serracino Inglott said during a debate on cohabitation organised by the Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations.

The statement, by the respected former adviser to Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, comes in the wake of proposals to regulate cohabitation by Parliament's Social Affairs Committee. The proposals have been criticised by some as a diluted form of divorce and gay marriage.

The proposals are up for consultation and a law is being planned to be in place by the end of the year .

Among other things, the proposals suggest the setting up of a register that would allow couples to enter a legal union which would then make them eligible for some benefits so far reserved to married couples.

In this vein it is being suggested that registered couples would be eligible to the same tax benefits as married couples and to a pension, inheritance and custody in case a cohabiting couple has children.

But Fr Serracino Inglott argued that cohabitation as a concept was not comparable to marriage. The former, he said, was for two people who looked for companionship in the setting and comfort of a home and did not necessarily mean there was a sexual relationship. "They could be siblings or a parish priest and his housekeeper living together, for example," he said, stressing the argument that marriage should not be regulated through cohabitation legislation.

Speaking from a legal standpoint, lawyer Yana Micallef Stafrace raised problems with the proposals which overlapped with this argument, saying the register system still left a lot of legal loose ends for people who had already been married and were then separated, especially when the children of a former marriage were in the picture.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times´ website.]

MaltaToday: Homophobia is the real aberration
19.5.10 by Raphael Vassallo

Last Monday, May 17, gay and lesbian organisations around the world observed International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The theme chosen for this year’s commemoration was ‘religion and religious oppression of sexual minorities’ – placing the topic entirely within the sphere of interests of any organisation which aims to represent secular humanist values.

Even were it not for the chosen theme, the issue of homophobia would still be of direct concern to the Humanist: a category of free-thinking individuals who hold, among other things, that discrimination on any grounds is a fundamental violation of the dignity we all share as human beings.

As a Humanist myself, and as co-founder of the Malta Humanist Association, I would like to take the opportunity of May 17 (albeit two days late) to outline a basic humanist perspective on the issue at hand.
First off, two small observations. It must be pointed out that religion in general is not in itself the cause of homophobia – as a cursory glance at 20th century politics will readily confirm. But as both the Malta Gay Rights Movement and Drachma (a Catholic LGBT group) asserted last Monday, it remains one of the few factors still in use today to justify and legitimise homophobic arguments... and in some cases to prolong active persecution of sexual minorities. In fact, homosexuals in this day and age continue to face the death penalty in many Islamic countries across the world. Even in Western countries with strong democratic traditions, there appears to be a resurgence of religious inflexibility that would hold us to the beliefs and value-systems of peoples who lived over 4,000 years ago.

The second point involves the legal status of gays and lesbians here in Malta, which has improved in leaps and bounds since the landmark decision to decriminalise homosexuality in 1974.
But while the government of Malta has taken various positive steps over the years, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that such prejudices still exist, and that religion continues to play a dominant role in their propagation. Consider the following comment, posted on Monday on
“It is them [homosexuals] who have to adapt to the normal way of life and not vice versa. It is against God and against nature to accept otherwise. In the beginning God created them man and woman and that is the normal way of life, other styles are to dig deep down and remain there unless they want to live normal lives like the rest of us - J. Farrugia.”

To be fair, Mr Farrugia may not be entirely representative of the religion he claims to represent – though that is ultimately a matter for the Maltese Catholic Church to decide, and so far no effort has been made to distance itself from such statements. None the less, Farrugia’s world vision is definitely shared by many people in the name of religion: and as the above quote itself clearly spells out, much of this prejudice takes root in a primordial misconception that the Earth, and all exists thereupon, was created with a specific goal in mind... from which premise it follows that all aspects of life on Earth are intended to serve an ultimate purpose according to a ‘Divine Plan’.

To put the matter succinctly, Humanists reject this interpretation out of hand. For the purposes of this article I shall limit myself only to how it impinges on views of human sexuality – though of course there is plenty more to be said about this vast issue.

Humanists believe that, like all other aspects of a human being’s physical and psychological experience, sexuality is also a product of evolution: that complex, much-maligned and entirely natural process that has been going on now for over four billion years.
For fairly straightforward reasons, this process was itself alien to the understanding of those who shaped our subsequent perceptions through the religions and mythologies they devised over the millennia: including the religion prevalent in Maltese society today. So it is hardly surprising that religions in general tend to take such small account of the scientific realities that underpin our planet: choosing instead to rely on a superstitious belief (or ‘faith’, if you prefer) that sacred texts such as the Bible or the Koran, even if unscientific in the detail, are somehow manifestations of a deeper Truth whose veracity cannot be denied.

To be honest even a Humanist may sympathise with part of this argument. For while only the seriously deluded would turn to such books specifically in search of scientific principles, it does not follow that that they have nothing whatsoever to offer the modern reader. On the contrary, ancient texts do provide an invaluable insight into the early civilised mind, and are at their most richly rewarding when shedding light on mankind’s earliest conceptions of the universe, and above all his own place therein.

But the wisdom they contain is not scientific wisdom. The premises from which they depart are not logically unassailable – far from it – and while much of the modus vivendi that emanates from these works is one a Humanist might be comfortable to live with, some aspects are very emphatically not.

One such example involves precisely the so-called ‘sexual norms’ propagated by the Bible and the Koran, among other holy books. It is a strange thing to have to reiterate in the 21st century, but humankind is in a slightly better position today than it was in the Bronze or Dark Ages to reassess the precise circumstances of its own origins. And what has emerged from our observations of the Universe over the past 500 years – before which time, let’s face it, our ability to observe was severely limited – is that there is no evidence to suggest that the tentative steps we have so far taken as human beings on this planet were choreographed from beforehand in accordance with some sort of pre-determined, cosmic roadmap.

In fact, the available evidence suggests quite the reverse: i.e., that in the absence of a fixed musical score (and at the risk of anthropomorphising that which is not sentient) nature makes up its own words and music as it goes along. If the resulting symphony sounds in any way harmonious to our ears, it is only because each individual note, each chord and each arpeggio – simply by virtue of existing in the first place – can only be the way it is for having survived the process of natural selection, thereby becoming the best possible adaptation to its own environment in its own time.

This applies to all aspects of all living things: from butterflies to bottlenose dolphins, from echolocation to photosynthesis, and from prehensile tails to Presidents of the USA. Naturally, it also applies to sexual diversity among humans: which was produced by nature in exactly the same way as all other dimensions of the infinite variety of life on Earth: i.e., unprompted.

From this perspective, any attempt to argue homosexuality away as ‘unnatural’ can only betray a crude, almost brutish ignorance about how the natural world really operates. And far from being ‘despicable’ or ‘reprehensible’, the Humanist would argue that sexual diversity deserves to be respected and cherished in its own right, as it also forms part of the great natural wonder we call the Universe, which we are committed to defend.

On another level altogether, homophobia is objectionable not merely because it breeds hatred and violence – though that alone is a good enough reason to repudiate it – nor even because it results directly in great injustices and social exclusion. Homophobia is objectionable also because it is severely (to put it mildly) irrational.

Paradoxically, this is best illustrated by reverting to the selfsame religious argument that Humanists generally reject. Once it is established that so much of the bias against homosexuality arises from a perception of what is and what is not ‘God’s will’, then the argument becomes rather meaningless to those who quite frankly do not believe in God to begin with.
But even if one were to accept the existence of God – and the subsequent premise that He created the entire Universe according to a ‘Divine Plan’ – it would be to say the least presumptuous to also assume the authority to speak and decide on his behalf.
Logically, anyone who believes in God and the doctrine of Creation has little choice but to also assume that homosexuality itself, by virtue of its undeniable existence in the Universe, would also have some part to play in the unfolding of God’s Plan... for which (let’s face it) we do not really have a final, conclusive blueprint, other than perhaps the words of prophets and mystics who lived as long ago as 2,000 B.C.

In the final analysis, I myself find the Humanist recommendation (no commandments in this world vision) altogether more reassuring. If people were to value others for what they really are, instead of what they think ‘God might have intended them to be’, the world would almost certainly be a better and safer place.

For more information about Humanism, look up

MaltaStar: Guilty of being gay [in Malawi]

Homosexuality in Malawi is considered a crime as gay couple have been found guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency.

Reports in the international media claim that Steven Monjeza, 26 and Tiwonge Chimbalanga his 20-year-old partner appeared before court in Blantyre and face 14 years in prison.

Both men have been in custody since December when they were arrested for holding a symbolic marriage ceremony in a country where laws banning homosexuality are strict although rarely have been enforced.

A former British colony since 1964, Malawi is in southern Africa.

With a population of 13,900,000, 80% of the population are Christians and 13% are Muslims.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar´s website.]

Peter Tatchell: 14 years for Malawi couple is “brutal” - Jailed men could die in squalid prison

Malawi reverts to the mentality of the Hastings Banda dictatorship
Only hope is for Steven and Tiwonge to appeal to the High Court

London – 20 May 2010

“This is an appalling, vindictive and brutal sentence, which tramples on Malawi’s constitution, violates personal privacy and reverses the country’s commitment to human rights.

“Steven and Tiwonge love each other and have harmed no one. Yet they get a sentence more severe than some rapists, armed robbers and killers.

“With so much hatred and violence in Malawi, it is sick that the court has jailed these two men for loving and caring for each other.

“The sentence echoes the era of dictatorship under President Hastings Banda, when personal prejudices determined law enforcement, and when individual rights were crushed and dissenters persecuted,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage!.

He was commenting on the 14 year jail sentence for homosexuality, which was handed down today against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Blantyre, Malawi.

Mr Tatchell has been supporting and advocating for the jailed men since their arrest and detention in December last year; helping arrange prison visits and the delivery of food parcels, medicine, letters of support and clothes to the detained men.

In the 1970s and 80s, Mr Tatchell supported the democracy movement in Malawi and campaigned for the release of the country’s political prisoners.

“Fourteen years with hard labour could kill Steven and Tiwonge. Prison conditions are appallingly unhealthy,” he said.

“Detainees die in custody. Infectious diseases like TB are rife. Medical treatment is sub-standard. Food rations are very poor nutritional value; mostly maize porridge, beans and water, causing malnutrition. After only five months behind bars, Steven has been seriously ill and has not received proper medical treatment.”

Commenting on the verdict, Mr Tatchell added:

“The judge has violated Article 20 of Malawi’s own constitution, which guarantees equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate.

“Malawi's anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.

“I expect both men will appeal against the verdict and sentence. Steven and Tiwonge’s best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict; although a more positive outcome on appeal is uncertain, given the high-level homophobia that exists in Malawian society, including among the judiciary.

“The magistrate was biased from outset. He refused the two men bail, which is very unusual in cases of non-violent offences. In Malawi, bail is normal. It is often granted to thieves and violent criminals. Denying Steven and Tiwonge bail was an act of vindictiveness.

“I appeal to governments worldwide, especially the South African government, to condemn this harsh, bigoted judgement and to urge its reversal,” said Mr Tatchell.

Prior to the verdict, Tiwonge and Steven issued a defiant message from their prison cell. It affirmed their love for each other and thanked their supporters in Malawi and worldwide.

Tiwonge said: “I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance
and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”

“We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will not and never stop loving Tiwonge,” said Steven.

The two men’s messages were relayed from inside Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London, England.

Tiwonge and Steven stressed their gratitude for the support they have received from fellow Malawians and from people around the world:

“We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned,” said Tiwonge.

Steven added: “All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us. May people please continue the commendable job...Prison life is very difficult.”

Peter Tatchell expressed his admiration of the two men:

“Steven and Tiwonge are showing immense fortitude and courage. They declared their love in a society where many people - not all - are very intolerant and homophobic. This was a very brave thing to do. Although suffering in prison, they are unbowed. They continue to maintain their love and affirm their human right to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mr Tatchell.

“They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody’s business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should never have been put on trial. Even prior to their conviction, they had already spent nearly five months behind bars.

“OutRage! is supporting Steven and Tiwonge. For the last four months, we have arranged extra food to supplement the men’s meagre, poor quality prison rations.

“We pay tribute to the other people and organisations who are giving legal and medical assistance to the detained men. This is a huge help. Steven and Tiwonge have asked me to communicate their appreciation,” said Mr Tatchell.

Sixty-seven British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns the arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.;

Amnesty International has adopted Steven and Tiwonge as Prisoners of Conscience:;

Until quite recently Steven and Tiwonge did not realise that they had been adopted as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International. When this news was relayed to them in prison they were, to quote one source: “Very happy with the effort made by Amnesty International to accord them this status. They offer their thanks to Amnesty.”

Tiwonge and Steven have also expressed appreciation for the protest on their behalf in London on 22 March this year.

See photos of the protest here:;
See videos of the protest here:;

The two men thanked London-based African and British activists who have lobbied the Malawian Ambassador and the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Human Rights Unit to seek their release and to secure medical treatment for Steven.

Steven’s condition has stabilised but he remains very ill. He is thin and weak and has jaundiced eyes, according to an eye-witness who saw him last weekend.

Tiwonge and Steven are urging continued protests to “get our release and the dropping of charges by the Malawi government.”

Write a letter to Steven and Tiwonge

Help boost their spirits. Show them you care. Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them.

Write to:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi

Constitution of Malawi - Article 20:

Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are...guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.

“Or other status” means on other grounds, which includes sexual orientation.

See here:;$FILE/Constitution%20Malawi%20-%20EN.pdf

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights - Articles 2, 3 and 4:

Article 2
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.

Article 3
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law. 2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 4
Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.

See here:;

Confirmation of Malawi’s signature, ratification and accession;

L-Orizzont: Ittri lill-Editur [Jum Dinji kontra l-Omofobja]

[Dawn l-ittri mhumiex online s`issa]
19 ta' Mejju, 2010

Urgenza ghal tmexxija ahjar

Sur Editur,

Dan l-aħħar iċċelebrajna il-Jum Internazzjonali kontra l-Omofobija. F’Pajjiżna jekk wieħed iħares lejn il-mod ta’ tmexxija ta’ l-istat u l-mod ta’ kif qed jinħolqu l-istrutturi dawn qed jifirdu aktar lil poplu permezz ta’ komunitajiet diversi li qed jinħolqu. Ma tridx tkun xi għaref jew xi professur sabiex tinduna li d-drittijiet ta’ kull komunita f’pajjiżna jeżistu diga fuq livell individwali.
Ta min jiġbed l-attenzjoni li dawn il-komunitajiet qed joħolqu aktar diskriminazzjoni bejniethom. Jekk wieħed jidħol daqsxejn fid-drittijiet ta’ kull persuna jinduna li f’pajjiżna id-dritt jeżisti għal-kullħadd l-istess. Meta pajjiż jipreferixxi komunita fuq oħra dan iwassal sabiex kommunitajiet oħra li jkunu f’minoranza f’pajjiżna jibdew iwasslu l-messaġġi tagħhom sabiex dawn jiġu rikonoxxuti.

Id-dritt ta kull persuna jeżisti mma’ bil-liġi mhux rikonoxxut u allura ma jidhirx daqshekk ċar. Dan jkun ċar biss meta l-istat ikun ugwali għal-kulħadd minflok noħolqu stat fejn iħares lejn soċjetà maqsuma fejn l-istat jipreferi minorita fuq oħra u hekk jkompli jkisser lis-soċjetà u jġib aktar diskriminazzjoni fosthom l-omofobija. Jekk il-mod ta’ tmexxija se tibqa` kif inhi ser naslu għal-soċjetà li hi aktar diskriminatorja.

Gino Tanti, Kalkara

Sur Editur,

Is-17 ta’ Mejju hija ġurnata internazzjonali kontra l-omofobija, għaldaqstant hu importanti li kulħadd jagħmel sforz kbir biex ngħelbu din l-omofobija, inkluż il-politiċi.
Hemm bżonn li mil-lum tkun il-ġurnata ideali biex:
1) L-iskejjel jorganizzaw attivitajiet fil-klassijiet biex jitwaqqfu diskriminazzjoni kontra lesbjani, omosesswali, bisesswali u studenti li diġà huma identifikati bħala “trans”.
2) Il-ġenituri jedukaw lil uliedhom li kliem bħal “mararaġel” mhux se jiġu iktar ttollerati d-dar għax hu kliem ta’ disrispett lejn l-omosesswali u l-familjari tagħhom.
3) Min iħaddem jorganizza programm mat-trejd unjins biex tinħoloq kuxjenza fil-postijiet tax-xogħol kontra din l-istess omofobija.
4) Il-midja tippubblika rapport fuq is-suġġett (kif diġà qed isir), dokumentarji, u stazzjonijiet tar-radju jistiednu nies li jitkellmu fuq is-suġġett kif ukoll jindaqqu diski favur it-tolleranza.
5) Persuni omosesswali li jridu “joħorġu jagħmlu dan mingħajr biża’.”
6) Leġislaturi, il-Gvern u l-Oppożizzjoni japprovaw mozzjoni ta’ appoġġ favur il-ġurnata kontra l-omofobija u li jikkommettu ruħhom li jiġġieldu l-omofobija li għalkemm f’pajjiżna jidher li mhix daqshekk qawwija, b’hekk inkunu qegħdin nassiguraw li żgur ħadd ma jaqa lura bi tbatija bla bżonn.

MaltaToday: Liberals like ‘barbarians who have invaded society’ – Gozo Bishop
Gerald Fenech Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mgr Mario Grech says symptoms of “sickness” of marriage breakdown also include cohabitation

A hard-hitting speech by Gozo Bishop Mario Grech yesterday insisted that marriage “was a sacred truth and anyone who attempted to undermine this truth for their own needs was going against God.”
Closing off a conference on marriage breakdown, entitled ‘Rolling Back the Tide of Marriage Breakdown’, Grech expressed admiration for British guest speaker Mr Justice Paul Coleridge for “having the courage to speak his mind”.
“A diagnosis of a patient takes into consideration the actual sickness, but also the symptoms and that is what is happening to us when discussing the marriage question,” Grech said at the conference organised by Progettimpenn – the Church’s think-tank on the family founded by the Cana Movement, Caritas and the Diocesan Family Commission.
Perhaps it was not made known to Grech that Coleridge has also made a name for himself in divorce settlements, having made legal history when his ruling resulted in the highest court award for a divorce – GBP48 million.
Grech, one of the most vocal critics of what he calls the “moral relativism” that is gaining ground in Maltese society, said the symptoms that rapidly invading society such as cohabitation, separation and ultimately divorce, need to be analysed in detail.
Quoting the philosopher James Curt, Mgr Grech said the real problem facing society today were the conflicts facing Western society today, where the old guard was clashing with the rapidly rising secularist mentality.
“Christian moral teaching can be shown to be rationally superior to orthodox secularist moral beliefs and it is becoming the norm for secularists not to search for what is right but what satisfies his/her immediate needs,” Grech said.
He insisted that for secularists, marriage is “only a contract to satisfy the needs of the partners” which may “not necessarily be a man or a woman”, adding that this was contrary to the traditionalist view of marriage as the union between a man and a woman with the prime aim of reproducing.
“We should not find any difficulty to determine the situation regarding marriages today which is unfortunately being fomented by the secular mentality of perceived rights – the right for divorce, abortion and gay marriage.”
Mgr Grech insisted that the secular mentality brought about a ‘dictatorship of relativism’ – quoting Pope Benedict XVI – insisting that those who believed in the sanctity of marriage should have the right to protect their views by legislation as do the liberals.
“Our society is in a crisis due to the invasion of secularist and liberal tendencies where anything goes,” Grech said, comparing liberal and relativist thinking to “barbarians who have invaded society and who have been governing us for quite some time.”
Mgr Grech said that it was important to counter the attack on the family with “the pastoral of thought”, adding that space should be made for such action within the Church and its flock. He also said it was important for the Church to engage with those who were close to the decision making process.
Quoting Pope Benedict’s recent speech in Portugal, he said that liberal thought expressed only a certain historical situation, but the precise work and mission of Europe was to “integrate faith and moral rationality within a single anthropological vision.”
Concluding, Mgr Grech said that discussion was important, but above all education on sound moral and family values continued to be the key if marriage was to continue being successful.
Keynote speaker Judge Paul Coleridge said a national marriage trust could be the solution in improving marriage numbers. In a lengthy speech, Judge Coleridge focused on the “quite disastrous” situation of family breakdowns in Britain, claiming these cost GBP42 billion to the nation.
“There’s been a drastic increase in the work of the Family Courts in the UK over the past years,” Coleridge said, adding that marriage breakdowns had reached “alarming proportions” and many were “powerless to avoid it.”
He also chastised the media and other social commentators for taking a laissez-faire view on the issue, insisting that some sort of action needed to be taken to halt the rate of marriage breakdown.
Intervening from the floor, Dr Robert Tufigno asked to what extent government should intervene in the question of marriage breakdown when the social mores are changing, especially with regard to the pursuit of happiness. Sir Coleridge said that government should not intervene directly to stop breakdowns, but should at least have some policy direction. “There needs to be a change in the laws,” Colerige said, but added that lessons had to be learnt from the “negative experiences” in other countries which had hastily introduced divorce legislation.

L-Orizzont: L-omosesswalità mhix realtà ġdida
19.5.10 minn Byron Camilleri, GWU Youths

Waqt il-Kunsill Ġe­nerali tal-Partit Naz­zjonalista laqatni kum­ment tal-kunsillier tal-PN fix-Xagħra Għawdex. Dr Kevin Cutajar kien irrappor­tat mill-midja li kkunsidra l-omosesswalità u qabbilha mal-imigrazzjoni u r-refuġjati bħala r-realtà ġdida ta’ paj­jiżna. Hu ġie rrapportat jgħid u jistieden lill-PN biex jindirizza dawn ir-realtajiet ġodda ta’ paj­jiż­na.

Tal-iskantament kif persuna li hu rappreżentant tal-poplu jemmen li dawn huma biss realtajiet ġodda għall-pajjiżna, u ma jirrealizzax li kien il-Partit Nazzjonalista stess li matul iż-żmien idde­ċieda li ma jagħti l-ebda rikonoxximent legali lil dawn il-persuni.

Ukoll, il-PN bil-membri Par­lamentari Ewropej tiegħu għan­du rekord negattiv ta’ voti meħudin fil-Parlament Ewropew li jirrigwardjaw id-drittijiet tal-persuni omosesswali, fejn l-MEPs Nazzjonalis­ti vvotaw kontra jew astjenew mill-vot dwar dawn id-drittijiet għal diversi drabi.

Li jiskantani hu, li kif mingħajr ebda mistħija ta’ xejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista jipprova jirrappreżenta lilu nnifsu bħala l-partit li jaċċetta lil kulħadd fi ħdanu, inkluż persuni omosesswali meta r-re­kord tagħhom fil-konfront tal-persuni omosesswali jitkellem waħdu. Wieħed ma jistax ma jfakkarx kif meta fis-snin 70, il-Partit Laburista taħt Dom Mintoff ippropona li att omosesswali bejn nies tal-is­tess sess, ma jibqax att kriminali, il-Partit Nazzjonalista ma kienx favur ta’ din il-proposta. Għaliex persuni omosesswali li jgħixu flimkien mhumiex rikonoxxuti mill-istat? Għal­iex għadna nqisu lil dawn il-persuni daqs li kieku qed jagħmlu xi ħaġa illegali li tmur kontra l-prassi tal-umanità, billi ma nagħtu l-ebda dritt ċivili lil dawn il-persuni? Dan żgur li mhux se jaffettwa lil ebda persuna oħ­rajn billi jinbidlilhom l-istatus ċivili tagħ­hom, iżda jaffettwa biss lill-persuni k­kon­ċernati li l-ħajja tagħ­hom tkun aktar faċ­li u jħossuhom parti mis-soċjetà.

Ħafna jaħsbu li persuna omosesswali ma tistax tadotta f’Malta. Il-liġi Maltija ssemmi li adozzjoni tista’ ssir jew bejn koppja miżżewġa jew inkella minn persuna ‘single’. Koppja miż­żewġa jistgħu jkunu biss raġel u mara, li jiġu meqjusin bħala l-missier u l-omm ta’ dan it-tifel jew tifla. Min-naħa l-oħra l-liġi ma tagħmilx distinzjoni bejn omosesswali u le, fil-każ ta’ persuna ‘single’ li tagħmel applikazzjoni biex taddotta. Hu l-bord tal-adozzjoni li jiddeċiedi dan.

Għalhekk, naħseb li wasal iż-żmien li l-persuni omosesswali ma jibqgħux jirreferu għalihom bħala xi realtà li waqgħet mis-sema fl-aħħar ftit snin. Billi jien m’hiniex omosesswali ma jfissirx li m’għandix inħalli l-persuni l-oħrajn jgħixu l-ħajja tagħhom kif jixtiequ huma, speċjalment meta dan mhu se jkollu l-ebda effett fuq il-bqija tas-soċjetà.

L-Orizzont: Stħarriġ fost 11-il pajjiż Ewropew juri li studenti Maltin l-iżjed konxji tal-bullying: PJAGA NAZZJONALI
19.5.10 minn Charmaine Craus

Minn fost 11-il pajjiż Ewropew li ħadu sehem fi stħarriġ, huma l-istudenti Maltin l-iżjed li jaħsbu li fl-iskejjel teżisti problema kbira ta’ ‘bullying’ fost l-istudenti.

Fi stħarriġ li sar mill-British Council, mifrux fuq medda ta’ tliet snin, jirriżulta li 62 fil-mija tal-istudenti Maltin jikkunsidraw li l-‘bullying’ hija problema kbira hawn Malta.

Bi 48 fil-mija tal-istudenti, imbagħad kien hemm il-Portugall u Wales, bħala dawk li wkoll iħossu li hemm problema ta’ ‘bullying’ fl-iskejjel, bl-inqas problema, skont l-istudenti stess, tinħass fost l-Ispanjoli.

Minn dan l-istħarriġ irriżulta li 46 fil-mija tal-istudenti jaħsbu li hija l-orjentazzjoni sesswali l-akbar problema li twassal għal ‘bullying’ fl-iskejjel. It-tieni l-akbar problema mbagħad hija l-apparenza fiżika bi 42 fil-mija u d-diżabilità b’35 fil-mija.

Il-pajjiżi l-oħrajn li ħadu sehem fl-istħarriġ huma l-Italja, l-Olanda, il-Belġju, l-Ingilterra, l-Iskozja, il-Greċja u l-Ġermanja. Dan l-istħarriġ sar f’iżjed minn 50 skola mifruxin f’dawn il-pajjiżi, bis-sehem ta’ iżjed minn 4,200 student, fid-dawl tal-fatt li hekk kif il-popolazzjoni ta’ tfal ta’ immigranti qiegħda dej­jem tiżdied, l-iskejjel qegħdin, kulma jmur, jiffaċċjaw problemi akbar.

Mistoqsijin jekk qattx kellhom esperjenza ta’ ‘bullying’ fl-iskola, kienu 17 fil-mija tal-istudenti Maltin li wieġbu li għad­dew minn din l-esperjenza. Dan kien l-ogħla persentaġġ fost l-istudenti ta’ pajjiżi oħrajn. Imbagħad kien hemm 14 fil-mija tal-istudenti Ingliżi u 12 fil-mija tal-istudenti ta’ Wales.

Il-persentaġġ ta’ studenti Mal­tin, dak ta’ 28 fil-mija, kien l-ogħla wieħed meta ġew mistoq­sijin jekk f’dawn l-aħħar tliet xhur, għaddewx minn esper­jenzi ta’ ‘bullying’ minħabba l-kulur tal-ġilda, reliġjon, l-istil ta’ ħwejjeġ li jilbsu, orjentazzjoni sesswali, reliġjon u razza fost oħrajn.

Dwar l-esperjenza tagħhom matul il-ħin tal-iskola, kienu biss 11% tal-istudenti Maltin li wieġbu li jħossuhom taħt pressjoni.

Madankollu, kienu 65% li qalu li għalihom huwa importanti ħafna li jmorru taj­jeb fl-iskola. Kienu l-istudenti Taljani, bi 24% l-aktar li jħossuhom taħt pressjoni waqt il-ħin tal-iskola, filwaqt li l-inqas stressjati huma l-istudenti Griegi bi 3%.

Kienu biss 18% tal-Maltin, l-inqas persentaġġ fost l-istudenti tal-pajjiżi kollha li ħadu sehem, li qalu li l-iskola jinsabu kuntenti. L-aktar studenti kuntenti huma l-Griegi bi 48% jwieġbu hekk. Fuq l-istess argument, kienu 17% tal-istudenti Maltin, l-ogħla per­sentaġġ fost l-istudenti koll­­ha li wieġbu li mhumiex kuntenti l-iskola. Imbgħad hemm l-istudenti ta’ Wales, b’6%.

Il-Maltin kellhom ukoll l-ogħla persentaġġ, dak ta’ 39%, meta wieġbu li la huma kuntenti u lanqas huma mdej­qin l-iskola.

EU Parliament: More must be done for young people, say MEPs
18-05-2010 - 12:46

[Excerpt of the article. Click on the hyperlink above to view the entire article.]

More efforts should be made to promote non-formal education, combat youth unemployment and help young people with special needs, says a resolution adopted on Tuesday by the European Parliament. According to MEPs, youth mobility and volunteering need to be encouraged, and more attention should be given to sex education and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Parliament wants young people to be involved in the formulation of youth policy and calls for Member States to "provide support for local youth parliaments and councils". There should be "a youth perspective in policies, programmes and actions in the culture and media fields", says the resolution, and a European youth pass should be devised "so that young people can gain access to cultural institutions throughout the EU at a very low charge".


Non-discrimination, sex education and healthy lifestyle

The resolution emphasises "the importance of eliminating all kinds of discrimination among young people, such as discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation". It also stresses the need for better sex education and draws attention to "the continuing high level of under-age pregnancies". The importance of "further combating the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco-related harm and other forms of addiction, including gambling" is highlighted by MEPs, who also emphasise the role of sport in promoting healthy lifestyles for young people.

REF. : 20100517IPR74663

MaltaStar: LGBT Labour expresses solidarity with victims of homophobia
17 May 2010 15:02

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Labour joins in celbrations of the International Day against Homophobia.

LGBT Labour expressed solidarity towards those, both in Malta and abroad, who have suffered homophobic attacks both of a physical and a psychological nature.

LGBT Labour and the Labour Party unreservedly condemns these attacks and asks the Maltese authorities as well as those of other countries, especially the ones where gay rights are trampled upon, stop these crimes.

On a Local level LGBT Labour notes with satisfaction the fact that Labour > Leader Joseph Muscat is the only Political Leader of the two major political parties in Malta who has taken a clear stand against homophobia and declared that people who harbour homophobic sentiments have no place in Malta's Movement of Moderates and Progressives.

We hope that this day will serve to continue our fight against homophobia which brings nothing but hatred and anguish not only to LGBT people but also to their families, their friends and their loved ones.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar´s website.]

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Independent: International Day against Homophobia

LGBT Labour marked the International Day against Homophobia with a statement in which it said it would like to show its solidarity towards those, both in Malta and abroad, who have suffered homophobic attacks both of a physical and a psychological nature. LGBT Labour together with the Labour Party “unreservedly condemns these attacks and asks the authorities of Malta as well as those of other countries, especially the ones in which gay rights are trampled upon, to make a stop to these crimes as quickly as possible” it said.

It also noted “with satisfaction the fact that Labour Leader Joseph Muscat is the only political leader of the two major political parties in Malta who has taken a clear stand against homophobia and furthermore declared that people who harbour homophobic sentiments have no place in Malta’s Movement of Moderates and Progressives”.

Times: Students in Malta consider bullying a problem
Tuesday, 18th May 2010 - 10:47CET

A staggering 62 per cent of pupils in Malta consider bullying a problem in their school, according to research by the British council.

The research was conducted across more than 50 schools in Europe who were chosen for their mix of children from different backgrounds.

It found that children in Europe’s schools find that sexual orientation, differences in physical appearance and disability are barriers to fitting in at school.

46 per cent of students in the countries covered by the study say that sexual orientation is the most common reason for children to make fun of each other in Europe’s schools, followed by physical appearance at 42 per cent and disability at 35 per cent.

The study showed marked differences between countries: 58 per cent of pupils in Italy make fun of others because of race compared to nine per cent in the Netherlands; 62 per cent of pupils in Malta consider bullying a problem in their school compared to 15 per cent in Spain.

Only 11 per cent of pupils in Malta felt stressed at school and 65 per cent felt that it is very important for their future to be successful at school. 75 per cent felt that their school made an effort to involve all of its students regardless of their backgrounds.

Of the 4,200 children surveyed across Europe, first generation migrants were 47 per cent more likely to have been made fun of in the last three months, 17 per cent more likely to be bullied and almost three times more likely to need help in school because they do not understand.

The survey is part of the British Council’s Inclusion and Diversity in Education (INDIE) project.

The project was created in 2007 to deal with the challenges faced by schools with increased numbers of migrant pupils. It has united education specialists, head teachers and pupils themselves from Belgium, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Wales.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]
[For further information on this survey please send me an email and I will send you the related documents- P. Attard.]