Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Independent: Sexuality laws to be strengthened following homophobic attacks
8 February 2012 by Annaliza Borg

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday announced that laws will be amended as a result of two incidents, which seem to have been provoked by homophobic motives, within the past three weeks. “It is worrying to have had two incidents of the sort in such a short time,” he said.

In his statement at Castille yesterday afternoon, following which no questions were taken, Dr Gonzi was referring to the attack on a 16-year-old lesbian and her girlfriend in Ħamrun, by two brothers in their late teens, in the third week of January, and the assault on a woman bus passenger by an off-duty bus driver last Friday.
While urging for prudence in comments since the cases were still being investigated and subject to court procedures, he said it needs to be made clear that society should always respect the person to the full, irrespective of race or sexual orientation.

The government wanted to pass the message that we should be proud to respect every person to the full and this needs to be emphasised by action, he added.

His statement had two aims; that of communicating a message to society, and to stress that laws should be strengthened and enforced.

“We should not pass judgment on others but respect everyone,” he insisted, adding: “Laws, that are a reflection of our values, should meanwhile be enforced and all institutions are to avoid discrimination and respect people”.

He has given instructions to Justice Minister Chris Said to continue working on revising the laws in question following the necessary consultation and urged for unity while expressing different opinions and exercising diversity. He also urged for action to be taken while categorically condemning the violence.

Following the Hamrun assault, the Malta Gay Rights Movement and the human rights lobby Aditus, had said in a joint statement that in many countries, such an assault would be investigated as a hate crime but Malta has yet to extend hate crime legislation to include the grounds of homophobia and transphobia.

They had highlighted that such cases were common in Malta but often not reported and trust in the police force is an essential factor in encouraging and enabling LGBT victims to come forward and report such crimes. The police reaction to this form of assault consequently, has an effect on the reporting of other similar incidents.

Meanwhile, following last Friday’s assault, public transport operator Arriva said it had dismissed the driver involved in the assault on the passenger and noted it has zero-tolerance for violence of any sort.

The company added it has a very clear and open diversity policy which all employees are bound to respect.

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