Wednesday 25 January 2012 - 10:53 by Raphael Vassallo
The Malta Gay Rights Movement will be holding a protest tomorrow evening, starting at 7.30pm, on the site of the attack on a lesbian woman last week.
Last Friday's violent attacks on two lesbian teenagers in Hamrun has once again underscored a glaring lacuna in Maltese law - its failure to include sexual orientation as a specific aggravating factor in violent assault cases.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement will be holding a protest tomorrow evening, starting at 7.30pm, on the site of the attacks - St Paul's Square, Hamrun. Among the particular aspects the movement will be addressing is this legal shortcoming, which has separately been criticised by international human rights NGOs.
Human Rights First, an American advocacy organization based in Washington, went as far as to symbolically 'fail' Malta in a mock report card, intended to measure the adequacy of national legislation when it comes protecting vulnerable minorities.
The card notes that Maltese legislation stops short of recognising hate crimes (regardless of motive) as a specific category of offence; and that while religion, race and disability are all listed as aggravating factors in specific common crimes, there is no mention whatsoever of sexual orientation.
This has in fact been the situation since the concept of hate crimes was first introduced to Maltese law n 2006. As a result, the police are powerless to prosecute the two suspects allegedly behind Friday's attacks for hate crimes, and instead are expected to press charges for simple assault.
MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja said that the issue is on the agenda for a meeting to be held with newly-appointed Justice Minister Chris Said in the first week of February.
The 16-year-old victim of Friday's assault was admitted to hospital with a broken nose and various superficial injuries. Her assailants - two brothers, aged 19 and 17, both from Hamrun - are understood to have taunted, verbally abused and even pelted the girl with eggs on previous occasions, but this was the first time they have been arrested in connection with the ongoing harassment.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on Malta Today's website.]