Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Times: Focus on gay hate crime
Friday, January 27, 2012 , by Sarah Carabott

A group of some 50 people yesterday met in protest, calling for the concept of gay hate crime to be included in Maltese laws.

The peaceful demonstration was held at Fra Diego Square in Ħamrun, the same village where a lesbian couple was earlier this month attacked by two teen-age boys.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) yesterday urged for a more inclusive culture.

“The incident is a reminder of the fact that being part of a minority continues to pose certain risks: that being gay, lesbian or part of an ethnic minority or sometimes just being a woman can put one at risk of being assaulted, violated and discriminated against.

“No one should become a target because of their identity and when this basic right is threatened then measures should be in place to ensure that justice is done,” MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja said.

“Raising awareness is important, but during this demonstration we’re insisting on political responsibility. We’re asking for legislation which covers more than racial hate,” Ms Calleja told The Times.

A 16-year-old lesbian last week was sitting on a bench with her girlfriend when two young men – aged about 17 and 19 – attacked them.

The incident allegedly started when the boys started hurling insults at the girls, calling them “lesbians” and “twisted”.

The girl ended up at a health centre with a fractured nose, a grazed face and bruises on her breasts.

Two teenage brothers will soon appear in court to face charges of assaulting and injuring the girls, the police said earlier this week.

The attack provoked calls for the concept of gay hate crime to be included in Maltese laws.

The only legal protection gay people have refers to discrimination in terms of harassment. The part of the law that speaks about hate crime is limited to racial hatred. Last year the Justice Minister announced there were plans to extend this to include homophobia.

Ms Calleja said the government needed to establish an implementation deadline, as this would assure con-crete commitment.

She added that the incident’s exposure had encouraged silent people to voice their concern.

“It’s also worth noting that condemnation has stemmed from all directions, including the religious camp,” Ms Calleja said.

The incident was condemned by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality among others.

A Facebook group called The Amy Initiative, was also set up calling for a more inclusive Maltese law.

The demonstration, held for the same reason, was organised by MGRM in collaboration with Drachma,University student organisation We Are, Aditus, Integra, Moviment Graffitti, LGBT Labour and Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħażagħ Malta.

They collectively presented suggestions to amend the criminal code.

People yesterday crowded Fra Diego Square in Ħamrun, where nine NGOs called for more extensive Maltese laws, including the recognition of hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation. Photo: Jason Borg

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