Wednesday, 26 May 2010

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.

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