Friday, 30 September 2011

EU Parliament: Parliament condemns daily violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Human rights − 28-09-2011 - 13:38
Plenary sessions

Parliament called today for an end to the discrimination and violence suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on a daily basis both in the EU and outside it and stressed that gender identity disorders should not be treated as psychiatric conditions.

In a resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority (442 votes to 104, with 40 abstentions) MEPs demand that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people be upheld fully within the EU and defended systematically in its external relations.

They call for gender identity disorders to be removed from the World Health Organisation's classification of mental and behavioural disorders. They roundly condemn the fact that homosexuality, bisexuality and trans-sexuality are still regarded as mental illnesses, requiring psychiatric treatment, in some countries, including some EU Member States, and they call for this to stop.

Parliament points to the obligation of EU Member States to grant asylum to people from non-EU countries who are fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation. They also call on Member States to ensure freedom of movement for same-sex couples and their families in the EU as well as access to preventive health-care and medical treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The House supports the efforts of foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and of EU Member States to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at the UN and welcomes the ground-breaking UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in June this year. It backs plans to continue discussions at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council, taking the view that a "respectful and open dialogue" amongst all regions of the world is indispensable.

Procedure: Statement by Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton + resolution
REF. : 20110928IPR27706


European Parliament resolution of 28 September 2011 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations

The European Parliament ,

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the European Convention on Human Rights, and to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

– having regard to UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/251 establishing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

– having regard to the Declaration of 16 March 2006 by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on behalf of the European Union on the establishment of the UNHRC,

– having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2011 on the 16th session of the UNHRC(1) ,

– having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2010 on Human Rights in the World in 2009 and EU policy on the matter(2) ,

– having regard to previous joint statements and declarations at the United Nations, including the Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity of 22 March 2011 at the Human Rights Council, and the Declaration on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity of 18 December 2008 at the General Assembly,

– having regard to the UNHRC resolution A/HRC/17/19 of 17 June 2011 on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,

– having regard to the 17th session of the UNHRC, which adopted resolution A/HRC/17/19 on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the 19th session of the UNHRC, which will hold the panel discussion mandated by resolution A/HRC/17/19,

– having regard to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly resolution 1728 of 29 April 2010 on Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Committee of Ministers recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of 31 March 2010 on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity,

– having regard to the Organization of American States resolution AG/RES. 2653 of 7 June 2011 on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,

– having regard to the report 'Homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity' by the Fundamental Rights Agency (November 2010),

– having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21 and 27 of the Treaty on European Union, and Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

– having regard to the Council of the European Union's Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People,

– having regard to the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations,

– having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union's ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity;

B. whereas numerous human rights violations linked to sexual orientation and gender identity occur daily in the European Union as well as in third countries;

C. whereas the European Union and its Member States should guarantee respect for human rights in their own policies and practice, so as to strengthen and make credible the European Union's position in the UNHRC;

D. whereas the European Union attaches paramount importance to universal and indivisible human rights;

E. whereas the European Union already includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its work at the United Nations, within regional bodies and some of its bilateral human rights dialogues;

F. whereas the UNHRC resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity is the first resolution adopted at the United Nations dealing specifically with sexual orientation and gender identity;

G. whereas states from all regions, including all EU Member States at the UNHRC, voted in favour of the resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and 21 EU Member States sponsored the resolution;

H. whereas several United Nations human rights treaty bodies, special rapporteurs and agencies, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights, have expressed grave concerns about human rights violations experienced by LGBT people worldwide;

I. whereas other regional institutions, including the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States, recently adopted resolutions condemning human rights abuses on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity;

1. Reiterates its concern regarding the numerous human rights violations and widespread discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, both in the European Union and in third countries;

2. Acknowledges and supports the work already undertaken by the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN human rights treaty bodies, special rapporteurs and other UN agencies to ensure that international human rights standards apply fully, regardless of a person's sexual orientation and gender identity;

3. Welcomes the adoption of resolution A/HRC/17/19 on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity by the Human Rights Council;

4. Draws attention to the fact that the resolution was supported by states from all regions and authored by South Africa; reiterates that human rights are universal and indivisible, and apply equally to all regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity;

5. Supports the organisation of a panel discussion during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in spring 2012 to have 'constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity'; takes the view that holding a respectful and open dialogue on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity among UN Member States from all regions is indispensable;

6. Welcomes the longstanding support of EU Member States and the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for including sexual orientation and gender identity in the work of the Human Rights Council and of other UN bodies, including in the case of earlier joint statements and declarations;

7. Recalls that the Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by LGBT People of the Working Party on Human Rights of the Council of the European Union mentions the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the world, equality and non-discrimination, and the protection of human rights defenders as key priorities; takes the view that the High Representative, all EU institutions and Member States should uphold these priorities systematically at home and in their foreign relations;

8. Calls on the High Representative and Member States to systematically promote, in partnership with third countries, the protection and respect of human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations and in other multilateral fora, and bilaterally in their human rights dialogues;

9. Encourages Member States to engage constructively, and in partnership with third countries, with the Universal Periodic Review and treaty body procedures to ensure that human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are fully upheld in the European Union and in third countries; to this end, encourages Member States and the High Representative to ensure consistency between the EU's external and internal action in the field of human rights, as provided for by Article 21(3) of the Treaty on European Union;

10. Calls on the High Representative, the Commission and Member States to further promote, in partnership with third countries, human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity through bilateral human rights dialogues, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and other external financial instruments;

11. Regrets that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not yet always fully upheld in the European Union, including the right to bodily integrity, the right to private and family life, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to non-discrimination, the right to freedom of movement, including the right to free movement for same-sex couples and their families, the right of access to preventive health care, the right to medical treatment and the right to asylum;

12. Recalls Member States' obligation to protect or grant asylum to third country nationals escaping or risking persecution in their country of origin on the basis of their sexual orientation, as laid down in Directive 2004/83/EC(3) on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted;

13. Roundly condemns the fact that homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality are still regarded as mental illnesses by some countries, including within the EU, and calls on states to combat this; calls in particular for the depsychiatrisation of the transsexual, transgender, journey, for free choice of care providers, for changing identity to be simplified, and for costs to be met by social security schemes;

14. Draws attention to the findings of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency in its report 'Homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity'; calls on the Commission and Member States to act on the opinions contained therein to the greatest possible extent;

15. Calls on Member States, the Commission and the EEAS to fully address these inequalities; reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive roadmap against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity;

16. Calls on the Commission and the World Health Organisation to withdraw gender identity disorders from the list of mental and behavioural disorders, and to ensure a non-pathologising reclassification in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11);

17. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, the Commission, the Council of the European Union, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Secretary-General.

L-Orizzont: Id-djalogu jagħmel ġid aktar mill-kundanni
28.9.2011 minn SAĊERDOT, Victoria, Għawdex

Sur Editur,

Ippermettili nirreferi għal dak li kien irrapportat fil-ġurnal tiegħek tal-Ħamis, 1 ta' Set­tembru, 2011, fejn f'paġna 8 kien hemm artiklu li kien in­titolat: "Monsinjur jikkundan­na lil kull min appoġġja d-dħul tad-divorzju".

Dwar il-kontenut ta' dan l-artiklu, xtaqt inqajjem xi mistoqsijiet u nagħmel xi kjarifiki/interventi:

Intqal li "għadha ma saret ebda ċensura mill-awtoritajiet tal-Knisja". Nifhem jien li dak li stqarr l-Onorevoli Ċensu Galea qiegħed jiġi endorsjat minn dan il-ġurnal. Jien jidhir­li li l-PL, li hu l-partit tal-liberali u tal-progres­sivi, hu kontra ċ-ċensura! U al­lura x'sens jagħmel li toħloq pressjoni fuq l-awtoritajiet ekk­leżjastiċi biex japplikaw ċ-ċensura? Aħna rridu jew ma rridux li l-Knisja tirriforma ruħ­ha?

Inkwantu t-tagħlim tal-Knisja dwar "l-indissolubbiltà taż-żwieġ", jiġifieri, li "l-indissolubbiltà taż-żwieġ hi Domma tal-Fidi definita fis-Sessjoni XXIV tal-Konċilju ta' Trentu u definita bħala ex iure divino" – persważ li dan it-tagħ­lim għadu jgħodd u allura s'hawn il-Monsinjur Gauci għan­du raġun.

Ċertament li dawk l-Insara li jiċħdu dan it-tagħlim awtomatikament jwettqu żball u allura bħala konsegwenza jsi­ru ħatjin ta' Ereżija u allura s'hawn il-Monsinjur Gauci għan­du wkoll raġun.

Fejn ma naqbilx ma' Monsinjur Gauci hu fil-każ tal-interpretazzjoni, bħallikieku li l-Parlamentari Maltin li vvotaw favur id-divorzju kienu qegħdin jiċħdu dan it-tagħlim dommatiku.

Nifhem jien li l-Parlamenta­ri Maltin kienu qegħdin jil­leġiżlaw għall-membri ta' Stat Sekulari/Lajk. Kellhom f'moħħ­hom li jilleġiżlaw ix-xewqa ta' Poplu Sovran kif es­pressa fir-Referendum. Kellhom f'moħħhom is-soċjetà ċi­vili fl-interezza tagħha. Iċ-ċittadin li mhux Nisrani (anke jekk f'minoranza) għandu l-benefiċċju li jagħmel użu minn din il-liġi. S'intendi anke ċ-ċittadin li hu Nisrani jis­tà jagħmel użu minn din il-liġi però jkun qiegħed jirriskja li ma jkunx f'rabta regolari mal-Knisja – dan hu tagħlim tal-Knisja Kattolika. S'intendi sta għan-Nisrani jekk jonorax il-liġi tal-Knisja jew le! Bħalma sta għan-Nisrani jekk jo­norax il-liġi t'Alla jew le!
Naħseb li f'dan ir-rigward ikun utli jekk wieħed jirrifetti fuq il-kelmiet tal-Arċisqof ta' Berlin (li miet fit-30 ta' Ġunju) il-Kardinal Georg Sterzinsky, meta stqarr fuq, li "secularism would continue to spread and the number of Christians continue to shrink. For Christians this would increasingly resemble the situation in biblical times and would be a 'Christianity of choice'." (The Tablet, 9 ta' Lulju, 2011, p.27).

Ikun utli wkoll jekk nirrif­lettu fuq il-kelmiet tal-Arċis­qof ta' New York, Timothy Dolan. Fil-kuntest tal-abbozz ta' ligi li jikkontempla l-leġiż­lazzjoni dwar "same sex marriage" (li hu differenti mill-każ tagħna), filwaqt li jikkonsidra din il-leġiżlazzjoni bħala: "ominous threat" u għal­daqstant jwissi li l-Gvern "should not be able to change fundamental social institutions", għall-mistoqsija li sarit­lu "whether the Church would excommunicate Catholics who supported the measure, jwieġeb billi jikkonkludi: "We try to model ourselves af­ter Jesus, and he's always conciliatory… Sometimes, if we come off too hard, we lose more people. Our job is to try to patiently change hearts, and not be throwing people out." (The Tablet, 2 ta' Lulju, 2011, p.30).

Fil-fehma tiegħi, jekk nieħdu f'konsiderazzjoni t-twissijiet ta' dawn l-Isqfijiet, ikun hemm aktar lok biex il-Knisja tiddjaloga mas-Soċjetà Ċivili, minflok nehdew nitkellmu fuq ċensuri u skomuniki. Fuq kollox, u hawnhekk nixtieq in­qajjem u nikkonkludi b'mis­toqsija fundamentali, jistgħu jew ma jistgħux, it-twissijiet ta' dawn l-Isqfijiet, jservu bħa­la linja gwida għall-Knisja Maltija?

COE: Schools must stop spreading homophobic and transphobic messages
Council of Europe (COE)
Posted on 2011-09-27 09:05

In schools across Europe young persons are being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is an every day reality in the lives of many. It is time to react – especially in view of several national studies and reports warning that there have been a number of suicides among young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons feeling rejected by their peers and families.

The scope of this problem appears to be large. A study in the United Kingdom showed that nine in ten secondary school teachers had witnessed children being subjected to homophobic bullying in their schools. Among primary school teachers two in five had made similar observations regarding children at this very early stage.

Such studies have also demonstrated that children in primary schools use homophobic remarks alarmingly often. They pick up and repeat negative jargon, most often without even understanding what the words refer to.

My recent report "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe" contains numerous examples of how factually wrong information about LGBT persons is disseminated – sometimes also by schools themselves. This is a serious problem and may contribute to bullying and to cementing homophobic and transphobic attitudes.

School books used to spread prejudices

The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases in 1990. Despite this, prejudices and misunderstandings have too often lived on in teaching programmes.

Only this past summer was a decision taken in "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" to revise a school textbook describing homosexuals as "neurotic and psychotic persons" with an "abnormal, unnatural and degenerated sexual life". From Lithuania I have received information that children have been taught that homosexuality is a sickness and that same-sex relationships destroy families.

In 2009 the European Committee of Social Rights set an important standard in its review of a complaint against Croatia regarding the content of a school biology textbook which was held to contain prejudiced information. The Committee found that "Certain educational materials which are used in the regular teaching programme are biased, discriminatory and degrading." Croatia withdrew the textbook as a result of the Committee's findings, though NGOs in the country still report similar problems with other textbooks.

"Don't stand for homophobic bullying"

Some member states have taken encouraging initiatives. A national action plan in Norway targets schools at both primary and secondary level and has added an LGBT dimension to subjects in the mainstream curriculum. In Estonia the national study curriculum provides a basis for discussions on LGB issues. UNESCO is initiating an international consultation on homophobic bullying in educational institutions. NGOs conduct indispensable anti-homophobic bullying campaigns such as the Irish 'Don't stand for homophobic bullying' initiative.

There is a strong need to review curricula and teaching materials in all member states of the Council of Europe. This was also emphasised in a Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation which called on member states to provide "pupils and students with the necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation and gender identity."

Schools obliged to protect students

It is an obligation for all schools to protect their students from bullying and to teach respect and openness. School personnel need thorough training concerning non-discrimination issues. One important tool in this regard could be the Council of Europe training pack on violence reduction in schools.

Policy makers and school management need to give strong support to teachers in order for them to have the means and resources to create a healthy and inclusive environment in schools and classrooms.

Thomas Hammarberg

Link: The Commissioner's thematic page on human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons (LGBT)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Times: Pope 'understands' those leaving Church over abuse scandals
Friday, September 23, 2011, by AFP

Pope Benedict XVI expressed understanding yesterday for those who had turned their backs on the Catholic Church after the recent sex abuse scandals, on his first state visit to his German homeland.

At the start of a four-day trip, the Pontiff also took a conciliatory tone with thousands of protesters rallying in free-wheeling, increasingly secular Berlin and reached out in the former Nazi capital to the Jewish community.

"I can understand that in the face of such reports, people, especially those close to victims, would say 'this isn't my Church anymore'," the Pope, 84, told reporters on his plane from Rome in reference to widespread abuse by priests.

But he asked for patience as the Church grapples with enduring outrage over the scandals that has threatened to cloud his visit to Germany, where his election six years ago had met with an outpouring of joy.

The Church "is a net of the Lord which catches both good fish and bad," he said ahead of his arrival, which was met with a 21-gun salute and children bearing flowers under glorious autumn sunshine.

He said in his first speech to a national assembly, Germany's Bundestag lower house of Parliament, that public officials must embrace their moral responsibilities.
"To serve right and fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician," he said in an address that met with a standing ovation as well as a boycott by dozens of leftist lawmakers.

The Pope said growing positivism, the rule of logic and the rejection of metaphysics, was diminishing humanity and encouraging "extremist and radical movements" to fill a vacuum left in Western culture. Germany's Christians are split down the middle between Catholics and Lutherans, each with about one-third of the population in the country that was the cradle of the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago.

A few blocks away behind police barriers, peaceful demonstrators, some dressed as contraceptives and nuns, rallied against Pope Benedict's views on issues ranging from gay rights to the paedophile priest scandals.

Police and protesters put their number at around 10,000, half the number organisers had expected.

Pope Benedict told reporters demonstrations were "normal in a free society marked by strong secularism."

"One can't object" to such protests as long as they were "civil", he added. "I respect those who speak out."

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

Di-ve: Labour urges young people to involve themselves in politics
by -
Politics -- 25 September 2011 -- 14:10CEST

A campaign to urge young people to get involved in politics has been launched by the Labour Party's youth section.

The Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti campaign START was launched today in Sliema, with Labour leader Joseph Muscat stressing the need for more young people and women to participate in politics.

Next March's local elections, which will see new councils elected in half of Malta's localities, was a particular focus for the Labour leader. Dr Muscat insisted that councils were in need of change, and should not simply become an extension of the national government.

Dr Muscat said that in politics, the young had typically served as window dressing, and insisted that his party sought to change this. He said that political parties could not forget that the earth did not revolve around them, and that they could end up irrelevant if they do not notice changes in society.

The Labour leader touched on a number of issues which were of concern to the young, stating his opposition to limiting student intake at university, lamenting delays in drawing up IVF legislation and stressing the need for improved gay rights legislation.

The Labour leader also referred to the divorce law, lamenting that the structures which need to be set up to deal with divorce applications have not yet been put in place, even though the law comes into force next week.

Monday, 26 September 2011

MaltaToday: Muscat in youth recruitment drive for local councils

Joseph Muscat addresses FZL campaigners in Sliema.

Labour leader talks of 'post-party' era where parties cannot deny society civil liberties.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said local communities had to trust youth leaders as responsible people who can provide stability, at the launch of a recruitment campaign for young candidates for local councils.

The Start campaign is being led by Labour youth forum FZL to recruit candidates in the localities that will have elections in March 2012. Muscat this week already pledged he will veto the candidatures of incumbents who had failed to deliver or seemed intent on behaving as if they were an extension of governmental departments.

But he told his audience today in Sliema's St Anne Square that the public had to challenge its own preconception that youths did not know any better.

"We're challenging the usual political line that young people are simply a backdrop to politicians… who don't know any better. We're opening the doors wide open to youth," Muscat said, who admitted having had to face similar obstacles when he became Labour leader at 34 in 2008.

"When I took up this role, it was an innuendo I had to deal with… a perception that I was too young for the job. I think such emotions play on the worst form of fear a society can have. I believe Maltese society is at a point where it can challenge this hypocrisy, and that people are ready to accept youths as part of society's leaders," Muscat said.

"We're investing in young people because we know they are responsible enough to bring the stability local communities need, and because they feel and know the signs of the times."

The Labour leader said it was an accepted norm in other European countries to give voting suffrage to 16-year-olds, and expressed his support to extend the voting age in local council elections.

Muscat also denounced the style of political bickering between the Labour and Nationalist parties, saying that Maltese society had entered a 'post-party' era.

"Political parties cannot keep on believing they exist in some vacuum while society is changing. They must understand that the world does not revolve around them. Unless they function as tools for change, parties will become irrelevant," Muscat said as he launched in a criticism of the Nationalist government's flip-flop on IVF legislation.

"We have a hospital with the best technology for IVF but the IVF clinic is not getting used because we don't have a law on in vitro fertilisation. There is a report unanimously supported by both sides of the House gathering dust, because whoever leads the country does not have the courage to move matters forward. My heart goes out to couples who cannot go for IVF without this law. Politicians who cannot see beyond the end of their noses are denying these couples their happiness."

Muscat said Labour was a tool for the movement of people who wanted to be clear on civil liberties such as divorce, and the recognition of same-sex couples.

"We must be ready to speak out against homophobia and bullying in schools over sexual orientation. A legislator's role is not to know what people get up to in their bedrooms, but to protect the most vulnerable in our society," Muscat said.

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

Sunday, 25 September 2011

It-Torċa: “Il-gays għandhom jibbojkottjaw il-liġi tal-koabitazzjoni” - Felix Busuttil
25.9.2011 minn Aleander Balzan

Il-liġi tal-koabitazzjoni - li mistennija tkun diskussa fil-parlament tul ix-xhur li ġejjin - hija meqjusa bħala t-tama ta’ ħafna persuni omosesswali biex ikollhom ir-relazzjoni gay tagħhom regolata f’pajjiżna. Iżda Felix Busuttil, direttur ta’ skola taż-żfin, jemmen li l-komunità gay għandha tibbojkottja l-liġi tal-koabitazzjoni. Huwa stqarr dan f’intervista ma’ din il-gazzetta li fiha kellu kliem iebes ħafna għall-mod kif hija stmata l-komunità gay f’pajjiżna filwaqt li jiddikjara l-ħsieb tiegħu favur iż-żwieġ bejn persuni gay u l-adozzjoni.

“Il-liġi tal-koabitazzjoni għandha tkun ibbojkottjata mill-gays għax din il-liġi ma tagħrafx l-imħabba, imma tgħaraf biss li tnejn jgħixu flimkien. Din il-liġi tpoġġi lill-persuni gay on par man-nannu li jgħix man-neputija jew maz-ziju li jgħix mal-bużnanna. Mela gays li għandhom relazzjoni sesswali bħal tnejn miżżewwġin huma l-istess bħal kull relazzjoni oħra? Żewġ persuni gay li jgħixu taħt saqaf wieħed u qegħdin jgħixu bħala koppja għandu jkollhom l-istess drittijiet bħal kull koppja oħra - xejn iktar u xejn inqas!

“Il-ħajja miżżewġa hija ċelebrazzjoni ta’ mħabba fejn tnejn iwegħdu lil xulxin li se jħobbu sal-mewt jekk ikunux sinjuri jew fqar, b’saħħithom jew morda. Ir-ritwal taż-żwieġ ma jispiċċax jekk tnejn ma jistax ikollhom tfal jew le imma jispiċċa biss fejn tispiċċa l-imħabba. Mela ż-żwieġ huwa mħabba! Fullstop! Jekk dak ta’ hemm fuq jibgħatek gay u int tista’ tħobb biss persuna tal-istess sess, jien xi dritt għandi li nwaqqfek milli tħobb u tkun protett bil-liġi f’kull sens, bħal tnejn straight?” jargumenta Busuttil li jħoss li f’Malta persuni gay huma stmati daqs ċittadini tat-tielet klassi.

“Inħoss li hawn Malta persuni gay huma stmati bħala ċittadini tat-tielet klassi, jiġifieri ċittadini mingħajr ebda dritt. Huma ċittadini li jħallsu t-taxxi daqs ħaddieħor. Il-persuni gay huma ċittadini li ħafna drabi joffru sens ta’ preġju lil pajjiżhom fid-dinja tal-arti, l-arkittettura u ħafna oqsma oħra li jagħtu dehen lil Malta. Minkejja dan, huma nies emarġinati, mingħajr ebda dritt ta’ protezzjoni u l-ebda dritt fejn tidħol l-imħabba. Ir-rispett lejn il-komunità LGBT mhux biss irid ikun fil-kliem imma fejn jidħlu liġijiet fejn il-gays huma stmati l-istess. Mhux iktar jew inqas minn ħaddieħor. Ugwali,” jiddikjara Busuttil.

Iżda, Felix Busuttil, fejn iħoss li d-drittijiet tal-persuni gay mhumiex ikunu rrispettati u fejn jippretendi iktar?

“L-ewwel u qabel kollox hemm l-edukazzjoni li nagħtu lil uliedna fejn ma teżistix aktar mibgħeda jew disprezz lejn dawk li huma gay. Kliem oxxen u ta’ disprezz iridu jkunu kkundanati bil-liġi ħalli nevitaw bullying u anke każi serji ta’ suwiċidji. Anke l-Knisja Kattolika nemmen li tweġġa’ jew turi nuqqas ta’ rispett lejn il-gays, li huwa ħażin.

“Is-soċjetà jeħtieġ tifhem li l-gays jitwieldu ġenetikament gays. Din mhix għażla jew influwenza. Il-gays huma tfal ta’ nies eterosesswali mhux omosesswali. Jekk hemm għażla, huwa faċli f’dan ir-rigward li wieħed jagħżel li jkun straight u mhux gay.

“Jekk mhix ħaġa normali li tkun gay, mela kif 10% mill-popolazzjoni fid-dinja hija gay? Dak ifisser 10 minn kull 100 minna fostna jitwieldu gay. Ma nistax nifhem għalfejn dan l-għaġeb kollu meta l-gays minn dejjem kienu jeżistu u se jibqgħu jeżistu. In-natura tiddeċiedi dan il-fatt! It-tieni għajb huwa fir-rigward tal-imħabba. Jien nemmen li Alla jibgħatek gay u żgur la ma jridekx ħajtek kollha mingħajr ma tħobb, però nimxu ‘l bogħod mir-reliġjon għax l-istat u r-reliġjon għandhom ikunu separati. L-istat għandu jipproteġi lill-minoranzi. Li jkun hemm ugwaljanza f’kull dritt uman u l-imħabba huwa dritt bażiku. Min ma jirrispettax dan id-dritt, għandu istint ta’ annimal,” jgħid Busuttil li jsemmi żewġ każi ta’ diskriminazzjoni li jiġru f’pajjiżna.
“Fil-każ ta’ Joanne, per eżempju, li biddlet is-sess tagħha. Minkejja li llum hija mara ma tistax tiżżewweġ!

“Li jekk Ingliż li jkollu sieħeb Brażiljan, jiġi jgħix hawn Malta, għax qegħdin fl-Ewropa is-sieħeb Brażiljan jista’ jgħix hawn Malta. Però Malti mal-istess sieħeb Brażiljan, ikollu lis-sieħeb imkeċċi. Din mhix diskriminazzjoni sfaċċata?” jistaqsi.

Għaliex żwieġ?

Għal Felix Busuttil l-emfasi fuq iż-żwieġ ġejja mill-fatt li dan l-istat jagħti iktar rikonoxximent, anke legali.

“Iż-żwieg jew “civil partnership” sejħilha kif trid iġġib magħha dan l-istat - stat ta’ struttura, stat ta’ rikonnoximent, stat ta’ liġijiet ugwali għal kulħadd. Liġijet fejn relazzjoni gay tkun stmata bħal dik straight fir-rigward ta’ taxxi, pensjonijiet, wirt, viżti l-isptar u l-ħabs, bereavement leave, next-of-kin u l-liġijiet l-oħra kollha li l-politikanti straight joħduhom for granted.

“Civil partnerhips jew Gay Marriage hija xi ħaġa ħafna aktar stabbli u responsabbli minn co-habitation. Aħna bħala soċjetà sensibbli irridu nevitaw relazzjonjiet li jkunu neqsin mir-responsabbiltà , dixxiplina, kunsens u għaqda. Huwa commitment ta’ Maltin u ta’ Ewropej li aħna għandna ugwaljanza fil-liġijiet - libertà u kuxjenza - dan hu kuntratt soċjali ta’ pajjiżna. Dan il-kuntratt hu il-kolla li tgħaqqad popolazzjoni diversa f’nazzjon. Meta kienet ovvja li s-suwed ukoll kienu tfal ta’ Alla u li mara tista’ taħseb għaliha nnfisha, il-pajjiż kellu jieħu deċiżjonijiet: jespandi il-franchise jew jitlef il-leġittimita tiegħu li huwa pajjiż liberu u ta’ kuxjenza. Li tgħid li l-gays ma jistgħux iħobbu jew jistrutturaw l-imħabba tagħhom wieħed qiegħed ikemmex il-valur taż-żwieġ għax iż-żwieġ hu sħubija, impenn, rispett u mħabba u mhux koabitazzjon,” iżid Busuttil li jtemm l-intervista qasira mat-TORĊA billi jqajjem anke xi mistoqsijiet dwar it-tema tal-adozzjoni.
“X’differenza tgħaddi bejn adozzjoni jew żewġ nisa lesbjani li jiddeċiedu li jkollhom it-tfal tagħhom jew żewġ irġiel li jagħżlu surrogate mother bl-isperma tagħhom? Jew dak li kien miżżewweġ qabel, kellu it-tfal, ma ridx iktar jaħbi li hu gay u li issa separat u t-tfal jgħaddu tmiem il-ġimgħa miegħu anke jekk qiegħed f’relazzjoni gay? Dawn huma double standards. Kif se nipproteġu it-tfal tal-gays? Għax ħafna koppji gay illum jixtiequ ukoll it-tfal hija stupida u ta’ disprezz li ngħidu fl-istess sentenza gay u pedofilu - dawn ma għandhom x’jaqsmu. Jeżistu ħafna straights li mmolestaw lit-tfal tagħhom. Allura nneħħu d-dritt lill-ettrosesswali li jkollhom it-tfal?! Min hu gay trabba ġo familja totalment straight - allura kif ma kienx influwenzat ( u gay mhiex influwenza!! ) li jkun straight?” temm jistaqsi Busuttil.

MaltaToday: ‘Gays should boycott a cohabitation law’ – choreographer Felix Busuttil

Felix Busuttil: Gay couples should not accept cohabitation law as recognition of their love.

Gay community should 'boycott' cohabitation laws that do not celebrate the love of gay people in relationships. 'We're still treated as third class citizens' - Felix Busuttil.

Choreographer Felix Busuttil said the gay community should ‘boycott’ a law on cohabitation unless equal partnerships for gay couples are recognised by the state.

Busuttil, 47, told GWU organ It-Torca that a law on cohabitation was not a recognition of the love of two people living together. “This law will just put gay persons at par with some grandfather who lives with their niece or the uncle who lives with the great grandmother,” Busuttil said.

“Gay couples living under one roof should be given exactly the same rights as any other straight couple. Nothing more, nothing less,” Busuttil said.

A cohabitation bill to grant unmarried couples rights akin to those who are married is still in the works. The 1998 electoral pledge by the Nationalist Party was never taken up, until Lawrence Gonzi was faced with a private member’s bill on divorce by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, which went on to become law after a national referendum approved it.

Felix Busuttil has however rejected the notion that the law could be a substitute for gay marriage. “Gay people in Malta are being treated as third-class citizens without any rights, paying the same amount of tax as any other citizen… the gay community must be included actively in equal state laws.”

“This is not a choice or influence. Gays are the children of heterosexual people, not homosexual. If there was a choice, it would be much easier to choose to be straight and not gay,” said Busuttil.

Busuttil argued that civil partnerships would introduce equal recognition of rights irrespective of sexual orientation or gender. Gay marriage would also be treated the same as any other in regards to “taxes, pensions, inheritance, hospital and prison visits, bereavement leave, next-of-kin and other laws taken for granted by straight politicians.”

He also said civil partnerships would give more stability and responsibility than cohabitation rights. “It would also prove a social commitment by Maltese and Europeans toward equal rights just as before when different races were accepted as ‘children of God’ and women were given more rights when they were recognised as equal to men.”

Busuttil also hit out at double standards preventing gay men and women from adopting children. “Because many gay couples today want children too, it is stupid and disrespectful to use ‘gay’ and ‘paedophile’ in the same sentence. They have nothing to do with each other,” Busuttil said of the unfair opposition to gay adoptions.

“There are many straight parents who molest their own children, so should the right for heterosexual people to have children also be removed?”

Busuttil also said children had to be better educated in understanding that being gay was not a life choice, but a genetic trait affecting 10% of the world population. “It would increase appreciation and respect toward the gay community reducing bullying and serious suicide cases.”

The choreographer also said there was greater need for more separation between Chuch and state, the latter being obliged to protect minorities and their human rights. “And that includes love, which is an essential human right.”

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Times: Malta-based officer court-martialled for homosexual acts

Sub-Lieutenant Christopher Swabey, RN, came from a distinguished ancient family with old connections with the Royal Navy.

Swabey found himself being charged with an offence similar to that of his previous court-martial six years earlier, and in the same place
- Louis Cilia

His father was Vice-Admiral Sir Carlisle Swabey, holder of the French Legion d’Honneur and the American Legion of Merit.

On November 13, 1948, the young Swabey, then aged 22, said farewell to his proud parents on his first proper assignment in the Royal Navy to join HMS Rowena in the Mediterranean as part of the Navy’s minesweeping flotilla in that area.

Almost a year later, in the evening of December 12, 1949, Swabey went ashore accompanied by other friends from the ship’s crew to a dinner with some British army officers in Salonika, Greece, whom they had met some days earlier while on shore leave.

Swabey and his friends, somewhat fuddled as a result of their drinking, were in a boisterous mood when they returned to their ship a few hours later.

Unknown to them, two other ratings had separately returned to the ship some time earlier. Since these two were blind drunk, the commanding officer ordered them to sleep in the wheelhouse under the direct supervision of a guard.

Once inside the ship Swabey tried to get some sleep but, still feeling unwell, he decided to go on deck for a little air. The wheelhouse was in complete darkness and he did not notice the two ratings asleep.

One of these ratings, a known homosexual with a bad disciplinary record, subsequently accused Swabey of indecently assaulting him and of making improper remarks to him of a homosexual nature. At the time homosexuality was an extremely serious charge in the services which could lead to a court martial and dismissal.

In a very short time a court-martial was organised in Malta to hear the case against Swabey on the depot ship HMS Forth in Msida Creek. To defend him Swabey obtained the services of an experienced Maltese lawyer, Leslie Grech (who passed away recently).

The lawyer, a barrister of Gray’s Inn with substantial court-martial practice, had served from 1946 to 1948 in the Judge Advocate General’s Branch in the Army. Grech had also been defence lawyer at many courts-martial in the three services.

At the end of the proceedings, Swabey was acquitted of all charges alleging indecency, but was found guilty of the lesser charges of disturbing the ratings when they were sleeping in the wheelhouse and of vomiting in their sight while wearing pajamas. The conviction for the minor offences was still dismissal.

However, the sentence was later annulled by the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty in February of the following year.

Swabey was immediately reinstated in the service and subsequently served in the Korean War aboard HMS Jamaica. In July 1950 he saw action as part of a joint task force between the US and British forces, known as Operation Chromite. Swabey was commended for his performance.

Later, on October 1, 1955, he was promoted Lieutenant Commander to command HMS Landing Craft (Tank) Redoubt in Malta. On March 21, 1956 Swabey flew out to Malta to take command of his ship. His proud mother, now widowed, could not contain her emotions as she waved him again goodbye. Both of them little realised what the next few days held for them.

April 16, 1956, was a beautiful day in Malta; a warm spring day with a mild wind. Around Grand Harbour the tempo of port activity was already picking up as the morning haze lifted and the sun shone its first weak rays on the ancient bastions. The several Royal Naval ships scattered around the harbour hoisted their colours to the sound of bugle calls. At 9 a.m. a saluting gun was fired from HMS Fort St Angelo. All sailors of all ranks in the harbour who heard the booming sound knew that this meant that a court-martial had just been convened in the ancient fort that had witnessed so many bloody battles.

They knew that a naval officer was about to defend his honour. As part of the ceremony the Union Jack on Fort St Angelo was also broken at its masthead.

By now it was common knowledge among the Royal Naval personnel in Malta that the person who was going to be subjected to a court-martial was none other than Lieutenant Commander Christopher Swabey, son of the distinguished vice-admiral. Despite his youth and very short service in the Navy, Swabey already had a colourful history of his own in Malta.

Swabey was again being accused of a homosexual offence against a young sub-lieutenant only 48 hours after arriving in Malta to take command of HMS Redoubt. This time Swabey was alleged of having placed his hand in a caressing manner on the knee of a subordinate officer in a taxi while they were returning from shore leave together. Additionally, the trip ashore had included several drinks and a meal.

The story was that on March 23, 1956, Swabey suggested to his subordinate Timothy Patrick Havers, the navigating officer on HMS Redoubt, to go ashore with him in the evening to have a good time.

Together they had visited two bars in Valletta and while there had several drinks with other friends, as sailors usually do on such occasions. They then went to the City Gem Restaurant in Sliema where they had a meal and some more drinks. They left at about 11 p.m. and took a taxi back to HMS Redoubt in Dockyard Creek.

Havers claimed that Swabey attempted to corrupt him sexually while in the taxi by placing his left hand on his thigh and tried to caress his leg. Havers’ reaction was to punch Swabey in the face and insult him.

The senior officer, completely taken aback by Havers’ quick response, muttered something unintelligible and immediately removed his hand. The taxi had in the meantime arrived near the ship and Swabey paid the Maltese driver £1. On returning to the ship Havers accused Swabey of homosexual advances towards him in the taxi and reported him to the First Lieutenant.

At first Swabey did not take Havers’ accusation seriously. He told a fellow crewman: “I think Havers suffers from a persecution complex.”

Swabey soon found himself being charged with an offence similar to that of his previous court-martial six years earlier, and in the same place. The central accusation again was that he had committed homosexual acts with a fellow crewman.

To any detached person the charge, and particularly its fragile details, would have appeared absurd. The previous 1950 case, however, made the situation for Swabey completely different, and, for that matter, highly unsafe. The first charge was already public knowledge in Malta when he took up his new appointment on HMS Redoubt in March 1956.

In the naval court-martial there was to be no jury; the case would be decided by a panel of five brother officers from other ships in Malta and presided over by Captain Edward Trevor Lloyd Dunsterville of HMS St Angelo. They were all experienced officers with long distinguished careers. The Deputy Judge Advocate was Lieutenant Anthony Tippet of HMS St Angelo. The prosecutor was Commander Roger Fisher, who was on the Admiral’s staff of HMS St Angelo.

Privately Commander Fisher, the prosecutor, had told another officer that he could not see how Swabey could be found guilty. Tippet, a young officer in Fisher’s own office, was still in his trainee phase and thus had little actual court experience. He had already expressed concern about his inexperience and the fact that he had to face his own boss in court. It was obvious that Fisher would carry the last word before the panel of judges in confrontation with his inexperienced subordinate.

These were not comforting thoughts for Swabey who was fighting to save his career and his reputation as well as that of his distinguished family. Swabey had no illusion what he was up against. The jokes and the coarse references to his homosexuality were common knowledge to all those who frequented RN wardrooms and messes in Malta.

At 9.30 a.m. the president declared the court open and Swabey was marched in accompanied by two guards. Swabey unbuckled his sword and yielded it to the court. The awesome ceremonial was intended to impress and instil fear and respect. Swabey was charged with three offences: indecently assaulting Sub-Lieutenant Timothy Patrick Havers, “a male person”, on March 23, 1956; being drunk aboard HMS Redoubt; committing an act to the prejudice of good order and naval discipline by making an improper remark to a junior rating.

Leslie Grech successfully applied for separation of the three charges. Drunkenness and making an improper remark, he said, had nothing to do with the more serious charge of indecency. For that reason, the main charge of indecency and homosexuality should be heard separately.

The trial lasted two days. On the second day the court was cleared at 12.55 p.m. while the officers of the panel left the dais to decide on the verdict.

The defence had pinned most of its hopes on the evidence of Gillian Genovese, the Maltese taxi-driver who had taken Swabey and Havers from Sliema to Dockyard Creek on the night of March 23, 1956.

A RN Petty Officer acted as interpreter during Genovese’s evidence in court. Genovese stated: “I took them (Swabey and Havers) from Sliema to the Dockyard. They gave me a pound but I don’t know that anything happened in the taxi.”

Later he added: “I didn’t hear anything at all. When I was at Msida I saw one of the officer’s legs in my face and I saw nothing else… The officer lifted his foot on the cushion of the car and I turned my face and saw that he had his foot on the back of the seat… I don’t remember anything else happening.”

The prosecutor patronisingly and condescendingly completely discarded the taxi driver’s evidence.

In his concluding remarks he said; “Genovese could not speak English very well. I leave his evidence to the judgment of the court. The court has seen him and from his words and deportment one can easily deduce his level of intelligence and powers of observation. The most charitable thing that can be said of him is that he has an incredibly bad memory.”

Leslie Grech, in his summing up, tried to bolster the taxi-driver’s evidence: “He was there, and it is for the court to consider his evidence in the light of the other circumstances which have been put before you as deduced from the other two people who were present, namely the accused and the complainant.” The court re-convened at 1.30 p.m. It had taken the panel scarcely 35 minutes to reach a decision. Swabey was marched back into the court to find, to his horror and disbelief, that his sword was pointing towards him.

Its ceremonial meaning was quite evident to him – he had been found guilty.

The court reopened about an hour later to decide on the other lesser charges of drunkenness and making an improper remark to a junior officer. He was only found guilty of the second charge.

Swabey in the end won after a struggle against all odds and an intransigent and totally blinded Establishment
- Louis Cilia

By now, however, all this was an anti-climax for Swabey. He knew that the punishment for the first charge was dismissal from the service.

At the end of the last court session, Swabey, disgraced and humiliated, was ordered to pack up his personal belongings and immediately leave St Angelo, from where he was to be driven by official car straight away to the RAF airfield and from there to be flown home the next day at his own expense.

There was no charity or hope for him now in the famous George Cross Island so well known for its compassion and generosity.

Swabey later grimly commented: “I had plenty of faith and hope prior to the court-martial, but at the end I got to know little charity.” However, Swabey was now past caring.

His thoughts were all about his elderly mother as he had kept her in the dark about his predicament in Malta. For once, he also thanked God that his famous father was dead and thus spared the deep humiliation of seeing his own son dishonoured by the Royal Navy and the good name of his respected family disgraced.

Before the start of the court-martial Leslie Grech had agreed with the prosecutor to keep the 1950 case out of the proceedings so as not to negatively influence the panel of judges. Grech and Swabey now realised that the past had indeed influenced the court’s decision and that the prosecutor had not abided fully with the agreement when he made veiled but obvious hints at the previous case in court, especially in his summing up.

This had infuriated Grech but there was little he could do about it now although this unhappy episode was to serve Swabey quite well in his subsequent battles to turn round the court’s decision against him.

On the plane back to England Swabey was already thinking of fighting the court’s verdict. His steadfast tenacity and resolution in the face of great odds is a striking tribute to his courage not to bow to faceless bureaucrats.

Swabey’s relentless battle started immediately after his return home when he told his sad story to his shocked mother. She promised to stay solidly behind him and to give him moral and financial support to succeed in proving his innocence.

Her unstinted support was, however, to cost her dearly as she ended impoverished and her health, like that of her son, seriously impaired.

The long 17-year battle was to be one court-martial, two appeals, a petition to the Queen, three debates in the House of Lords, two appeals to the Courts-Martial Appeals Court.

Swabey finally found his redemption when the Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Carrington, on August 5, 1971 decided to refer the case to the Courts-Martial Appeals Court. This court met on May 1, 1972 and after three days concluded that the court-martial’s decision in Malta in 1956 was “unsafe and unsatisfactory.”

The statement was received in total silence in court as if it was not understood by those present. Swabey looked around him stunned. “What does it mean?” he hesitatingly asked his defence counsel, who was already packing his papers. “You have been proved innocent,” was the short but meaningful reply. Swabey fell back in his seat, pale, exhausted and still unbelieving. At last, justice had been done – but at what cost.

Swabey in the end won after a struggle against all odds and an intransigent and totally blinded Establishment and was finally declared innocent, awarded reinstatement in the Royal Navy in his last rank in 1956 (but retired status) and £45,000 as compensation.

Justice prevailed but not thanks to the Admiralty who behaved as shockingly to Swabey as they had previously done in the famous Archer-Shee case in 1910.

George Archer-Shee was a 13-year-old naval cadet who had been accused (and subsequently found guilty and expelled from the naval college) of stealing a five-shilling postal order from a fellow cadet. Archer-Shee’s case had only lasted three years, Swabey’s lasted 17 years.

I end this sad story on a lighthearted note by referring to one of the debates on the Swabey case in the House of Lords which took place on July 21 ,1965. The debate throws light on some of the noble Lords’ opinion on Maltese taxis and taxi-drivers.

It also shows how relaxed the proceedings of the Upper House still were in 1965 compared to what one can witness in the same august institution nowadays.

Lord Russell of Liverpool: “I do not know whether Your Lordships have ever been in a taxi in Malta in the evening, but I have, and when they are driving round corners quickly it is quite often necessary to save oneself from falling over. Had not Swabey done that on this occasion I think he might well have found himself in a much more compromising position vis-à-vis an indecent assault than if he had tried to stop himself from falling over.”

The Marquis of Salisbury: “My Lords, from the inquiries I have made it emerges that there is no division between the front and back seats in taxicabs in Malta, and the driver must therefore have been within two or three feet of the two officers. Yet he heard nothing. As a result, his evidence being of no value to them, the prosecution dropped him like a hot potato. Although he was their own witness, his evidence became of no importance.

“In the words of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in the last debate – I will quote his exact words; I do not want to misrepresent him in any way: ‘It is conceivable here that they did not think the taxi-driver’s evidence was worthy of any credence at all.’ The noble and learned Viscount added: ‘He was a Maltese taxi-driver’ – as if that, my Lords, were one of the lowest forms of human life. But one cannot help suspecting that the prosecution’s opinion of Maltese taxi-drivers would not have been so low if this particular one had given evidence of a different character and said that he had heard something.

“Then he would have become a good witness and they would have attached enormous importance to his words. Otherwise, why call him in evidence at all?”

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