2.11.2011 BY CYRUS ENGERER
Human Rights is a topic that I have at heart. It was one of my main bones of contention within PN and the topic which used to lead me to be seen as controversial within the party. The past few weeks have once again proven that my criticism of the present government and of the governing party was justified. Not that I needed the justification since I used to experience daily discrimination my self as a citizen of this country, however, recent actions by government further confirmed my concerns.
In this blog entry, I shall not go into the whole episode of the incorrect transposition of the European Union's Freedom of Movement Directive. Although it is worth mentioning that the EU and various NGOs had to pressure the Maltese government for over a year to allow homosexual families, where one of the partners is a non-EU citizen, to move freely to Malta (as part of the EU's 4 freedoms principle). This had to be the case since allowing homosexual families in our country, according to the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, was in "conflict with the public policy of Malta". Read the whole story on Maltatoday's article or its equivalent on The Times of Malta.
This past fortnight we had more similar stories. Firstly, a transvestite was shown the way out and not allowed to continue her section on a Saturday programme which was classified as a section for all ages on Television Malta, the National Broadcaster; while secondly, as the national census was sent to all households on the islands, it transpired once again that same-sex couples and families are still inexistent to the Maltese government.
Soraya Queen, a stage-name of a Maltese transvestite, started her short section on popular Saturday afternoon programme on National Television, Sibtek, as the new Autumn schedule commenced in October. Unfortunately, her section could not continue throughout the whole TV season since the PBS board found her not suitable for an afternoon television show. This was not because of the content of her slot on Sibtek, which was for all ages, but just because she is a man dressed in woman's clothing. The PBS board told Soraya that her slot was one that should only be seen by adults at night, however, failed to explain which part of the slot was not suitable to families. Meanwhile, it was reported by Soraya that the same PBS board told the show's producers that they couldn't have a transvestite on National Television at that time, irrelevant of the content of the show. Discrimination at its best in a country that already discriminates and makes life hell to all those who are transgender or transvestites. Once again, I believe that this is a case in which the Maltese public is far more advanced in tolerance and acceptance than the political elite in parliament who are cut-off from the realities we are living in (as happened with the divorce issue).
Meanwhile, the National Census has been sent to all households and as was expected, question 20 asks of the individual's legal status with six options available as answers: single, married, separated, widowed, divorced or had a marriege annulled. Nowhere is there an option for someone who has been in a stable and long-lasting same-sex relationship, with or without children, to chose from. For the Maltese State, such families are not only considered as second class but inexistent. This is not the first time that such a non-consideration has taken place. Same-sex couples and families are discriminated on a daily basis in our daily lives since we are not recognised as a couple or a family. This includes discrimination on patronage rights, succession rights, tax rights, goods and services rights and hospital rights among others. I guess this is normal since as the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs stated, our families are in "conflict with the public policy of Malta".
It is worth noting that during this legislature, when parliament was discussing the rent reform, Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg stated the following during the debate in parliament: "hekk jonqos issa nitqannew bil-gays ukoll" when the opposition demanded due consideration to same-sex couples who live together in rented households. The same deputy leader of the Nationalist Party made it clear that his party "is not a liberal party, it is a christian democratic party and therefore should only be asked to protect those who deserve protection", this apparently excludes homosexuals, as if we do not form part of Maltese society. Read The Times of Malta report on his speeches. Labour replied back that through these statements PN was being "cynical, derisory and depreciative" towards a sexual minority in Malta.
What is interesting is that at the same time, it is PN that speaks about how tolerant it is because it has a Member of Parliament who is out, after being outed by a local Sunday newspaper following his co-election to parliament. Unfortunately, after more than a year and a half in parliament, the same MP has, as yet, done nothing to ameliorate the current situation for his gay counterparts. Hopefully, this article will serve to get him going, because any change in current legislation, irrespective by who, will lead to improve people's quality of life. Probably though, this will fall on deaf ears as has happened in the past 18 months, since "hekk jonqos issa, nitqannew bil-gays ukoll".
The only tangible solution for recognition of homosexual couples and families in Malta is through the Labour Party which has already made its voice loud and clear in parliament and its party fora on the topic and which is currently formulating its plan of action, which shall be outlined in its electoral manifesto, should Malta trust it with the leadership of the country which while making sure that the country will remain stable economically by emphasising on good-governance and wise decision-making which will also increase competitiveness and efficiency, will bring the necessary changes where the present governing party has been stagnant, mainly because of its conservative ideology.