Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Gay Malta vs Gay Sweden

 July 2012 by Enikö Vass

Although Malta has been a member of the European Union for more than 8 years, gay people in Malta do not enjoy the same rights and freedom as homosexuals in other European countries, including Sweden. Instead of acceptance, they often encounter discrimination at the place of work and outside it.

 When looking at the rights of gay people in Malta and Sweden we can see that both countries have developed significantly from the time when homosexuality was still considered a criminal act. Sweden took the first step to gay rights by decriminalization of gay behaviours in 1944, while Malta lagged behind, only taking this step in 1973, a decision taken by the Labour government in power at the time. In 1979, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare removed homosexuality from its medical diagnosis list while more rights were introduced with time. Since then, the attitudes towards cohabiting, relationships and partnerships have changed to become more tolerant and accepting. In fact, any gay people who have been persecuted in their home countries due to their homosexuality may be given asylum in Sweden.

Malta and Sweden agree on a few points; it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientations in both countries and there are no laws forbidding sex between people of the same gender as long as both parties are over 18 years old.

However, the two countries see things differently when it comes to cohabiting. In Sweden there is no difference in cohabiting couples – gay and straight couples enjoy the exact same rights and the same laws apply to everyone. Also, since 2009 gay people have managed to obtain the right of getting married, with the same rights and obligations as heterosexual marriages, including the possibility of parenthood.

This is definitely not the case in Malta where gay couples are not allowed to get married and therefore cannot enjoy the same rights and protection available to married couples. Moreover, cohabitation laws are still not enacted, giving rise to insecurities and abuses within the Maltese gay community.

Even if Sweden enjoys open views and protective, non-discriminatory legislations, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any cases of discrimination or prejudice, and while hate crimes are not a lot, gay communities keep on organizing gay pride festivals to increase awareness and help in ensuring the total inclusion of gay people in society.

Although the Malta Gay Rights Movement has been vital to increase awareness regarding the rights of gay people in the Maltese Islands, gay people are still not completely protected by law. After a few hate-crimes happening in the first half of 2012, Malta welcomed the passing of the Hate Crime Legislation which includes sections about sexual orientation and gender identity. Hopefully the next step will be the legislation about civil partnerships, which I hope it will be very soon!


Gay Pride in Stockholm

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