Sunday, 10 February 2013

Independent: PL to appoint LGBT Representative
Monday, 04 February 2013, 14:56

Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat pledged to appoint a government representative who will focus on civil and equality rights while setting up a consultative council which is to draft a Bill on civil unions.

Once the Bill is approved by Parliament, the council will be tasked with moving a tall order on the measures that need to be taken. The council is to be made up of several representatives of LGBT organisations and is intended as a forum where all stakeholders come together.

Addressing members of LGBT associations at Le Meridien, ST Julian’s, Dr Muscat noted this is the first time a main political party is to have a chapter on civil rights in its manifesto. Members of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, LGBT Labour, the University group ‘We Are’, Aditus and representatives of the transgender community, were present.

He added that the PL is committed to work on transgender issues and plans to show leadership in action, if elected to government.

He strongly believes in having a breakthrough in the field of LGBT issues.

Spokesperson Gaby Calleja said the movement has several aims including the introduction of marriage equality and enacting the Gender Equality Act, which was tabled by Evarist Bartolo in 2010.

She also spoke about the need to extend the Anti-Discrimination Act to cover products and services.

Discussing the Embryo Protection Bill, Ms Calleja said this excludes gay couples from resorting to IVF. The LGBT movement strongly believes in the need for better education and inclusion of LGBT students in schools. At the same time, teachers need to be better trained to stop bullying.

Moreover, she spoke on the need to protect transgender individuals in prison.

Asked on the ban on gay man to donate blood, brought up by Dr Muscat during a visit to the Blood Donation Unit last week, MGRM member Dr Mark Grech said studies show that higher risks exist when gay men donate blood because they have a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. However, Dr Grech pointed out that some countries, including the UK and New Zealand have undertaken changes to their regulations and assessments are being based more on calculated risks.

Dr Muscat noted he has been bombarded with emails on the subject following last week’s visit. He said it is not on to have a person excluded from being a blood donor on the basis of his sexual orientation. A man who has sexual contact with another man once in a lifetime should not be banned from being a donor, he believes.

Risk based assessment should therefore identify when the contact took place. He added that Health Minister Joe Cassar had acknowledged the government was assessing how the regulations could be improved.

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