Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Times: Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?

You have rights (3)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 09:29, by Nikita Alamango

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that life is too short for us to repress ourselves. Unfortunately, not everyone would agree with such a statement.

In this day and age I feel that we are living a contradiction. On one hand we want to live our own lives the way we want on the other we want to interfere in other people’s lives. This conflict can be seen in the way some people look upon the gay community, in Malta and around the world. Recent events in Malta have also managed to crush the mask that some pretend to wear.

Over the past weeks, with the exception of once or twice, I have shared my thoughts on human rights and against discrimination of any form. Another worrying injustice and prejudice our world is experiencing today is homophobia.

Let me go a step back: What is homophobia?

Homophobia is the discrimination against, fear or hatred of homosexual people. It is similar to racism in that it discriminates against a group of people based on a single uncontrollable characteristic. As with racism, social expressions of homophobia are cruel and amount to human rights violations.

Whereas all forms of homophobia are a source of concern, it is particularly worrying when the state, judicial system or police force acts in a way that is homophobic. The state is supposed to protect the rights of homosexual people, not violate them. Whereas the rights of homosexual people are, to a certain extent, protected in most countries in Europe and in the developing world, the same cannot be said for many other African countries like Malawi or Uganda.

Seeing as last week Malta celebrated Gay Pride organised by MGRM, which I was proud to attend and support their genuine cause, I feel the need to make some clear things crystal and do away with myths.

Myth 1: Homosexuality is a choice, and a gay person can be made ‘straight’. The fact is that people who identify as homosexual or have homosexual feelings do not choose to feel this way. Being attracted to a person of the same sex happens without volition. It has nothing to do with a person’s background, country, childhood or other environmental influence. Because being homosexual is not a choice, no one can be made ‘straight’. Tactics to make someone ‘feel’ heterosexual, such as verbal or physical abuse, are both ineffective, as the person will continue to experience homosexual feelings, and wrong, as they degrade the person’s human rights.
Myth 2: Homosexuality was introduced by Western colonialists. Homosexuality has been practiced throughout history and in all parts of the world. It is just as African as it is European, American, Latin or Asian. Whilst there is a common belief that European and North American gay rights organisations push homosexual rights within Africa, homophobia is also advocated by western fundamentalist organisations that oppose gay rights.

Myth 3: Homosexuality is a disease. Studies have shown that homosexuality is a normal, natural occurrence among people all over the world, from every race, religion, tribe, and culture. While some cultures and places may be more accepting of homosexuality, resulting in more openly gay members of society. While homosexuality used to be thought of as a psychological disorder, this classification came from a homophobic point of view. Thus, homosexuality is a completely normal, healthy way of feeling and acting.

Myth 4: Homosexuality leads to moral decay in society. This widespread myth makes no sense at all. The fact that some people are homosexual does not harm society in any way. On the contrary, discriminating against homosexual people is cruel and violates their human rights. It is homophobia that is immoral and harmful to society.

If we had to stop for a while and look closely at our country we would realise that Malta has not yet signed Protocol No.12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although our Criminal Law gives consent to same-sex sexual acts, Malta does not provide any legal recognition of same-sex partnership or full marriage equality. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in the area of employment, however I’m sure we have all heard of cases where this was not the case.

Much to my surprise and to the astonishment of those who where present during the MGRM Seminar on The Legal Recognition of Same Sex couples the Nationalist Party representative, MP Dr Stephen Spiteri started off his 5 minute speech by assuring those present that being gay is absolutely normal and that it is not a disease. Wow what a declaration! But hey. Where has he been living so far? I find this unacceptable coming from an MP who is supposed to be representing the Maltese society in Parliament. If he is still living in 1911 (not 2011) then I suggest he should give up his seat and make space for other people who are more fit to be in Parliament.
To add insult to injury, during the same seminar another Nationalist MP Karl Gouder said that the 3 political parties in Malta are reflecting society by not offering full marriage equality. It seems to me though, that society is more tolerant than Hon. Gouder himself who should really know better what society wants. A simple Question on facebook asking people what they think about gay marriage scores 800 yes votes out of around 1200 votes.

Anyway, my last comment before I wrap this post up, because it seems I can’t stop writing. I’d like to welcome Cyrus Engerer on board after a hard decision. It was a pleasure getting to know him during the divorce campaign and I surely look forward to working with him on other issues. For those who are who are criticising his move I’ll say this: aren’t people always complaining that we lack politicians who can be honest, genuine and have what it takes to take tough decisions? Well now we’ve got a young politician who has shown under difficult circumstances what he's really made of.

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

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