Wednesday, 18 May 2011

MaltaToday: Would you like a free flower? [SLIDESHOW]

Three young ladies pause to examine the map detailing the degree of legal protection or criminalisation of homosexuality around the world.

Gay Rights activists brightened up Valletta’s Republic Street by handing out bright carnations to passers-by to mark the international day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The activists mingled with the crowd before the Courts, handing out carnations and explaining the significance of the day to all and sundry, and also set up two backboards where anyone would chalk down a thought or two.

A global map was also laid out, detailing how ‘protected’ or ‘illegal’ homosexuality or same sex couples are in each respective country.

Various onlookers stopped to chalk a message of goodwill and solidarity on the black boards. “Be respectful to others,” one wrote. “Treat your neighbours like your family,” wrote another.”

“Avoid name calling!” wrote another, drawing a tiny heart nearby for emphasis. “Be proud of who you love,” another message read – an inspiring message of both touching humanity and gentle pride.

“We’ve done very well,” said gay rights activist and event spokesperson Bernard Muscat, aged 27. “The response has been great and we’ve almost run out of flowers already!” he said, speaking just over an hour after the event started.

While the complementary white, yellow, red, and peach carnations proved a popular attraction among Valletta mid-day strollers, it was the red carnations that were the most sought after.

Muscat said that 400 flowers alone had been laid aside for the Valletta event, while 100 were earmarked for a similar University campus event. “We’ll soon have to start eating away at the University event’s stock at this rate,” he smiled.

Speaking to the media, Muscat said that this is the second time such an event was being held. “Last year, we gave out flowers from the shade of City Gate, but since that is gone, it was suggested we move to here.”

Like this year, last year’s event was met with nothing but positivity, he said. “There was one woman who told us that her son was gay and he thought she (his mother) didn’t know it. She told us: ‘I am going to go put this flower on his bed, so he knows I still love him.”

“It was moving how a simple flower could lead to acceptance of homosexuality within the family,” Muscat said.

Asked if perceptions governing homosexuality are changing, he said that society is moving past the point of stigma or revulsion, but there is a lot that can e done. “This sort of event shows how gays are not abnormal anymore, he said.

“Being against homosexuals is like being against left-handed people,” he said. “This is recognised as ridiculous in this day and age. But we are still living in a world where people still suffer stigma.”

Referring to Malta’s situation, Muscat said that it is nevertheless “offensive and embarrassing that Malta still insists on not recognising same sex couples.” He said that in this way, the government is treating couples differently, and considering same sex couples as less important or “second rate.”

He also said that there is more work that needs to be done within schools, as many children are specifically bullied for being gay. He rejected the position adopted by Social Policy Minister Dolores Cristina in that bullying of all types was being tackled “holistically.”

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