Friday, 31 May 2013

Malta Star: Independent think-tank highlights same sex rights
Saturday, 18 May 2013, 00:05

Malta's only independent think-tank, The Today Public Policy Institute, today published a report entitled “Same Sex: Same Civil Entitlements” in which it highlights the real and manifest inequality that currently exists between homosexuals and heterosexuals in Malta.

The report states that there has been a neglect by Parliament of the plight of sexual minorities in Malta, a vulnerable group in society, consisting of homosexuals, bisexuals, trans-genders and inter-sex persons, as well as same-sex partners who live together and set up home together, who currently enjoy no proper rights or recognition. The situation has been allowed to fester for too long.

There is a pressing need for appropriate legislation to be passed to end discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and to punish homo-phobic hate crimes and bullying. So long as society chooses to treat homosexual couples as being in a second-class relationship, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans-genders and Inter-sex people (LGBTI) will continue to be the victims of homophobic incidents, such as threats, intimidation, verbal abuse or physical assault.

In its electoral manifesto of February 2013, the government pledged to introduce civil union legislation in Malta. It envisaged that a Consultative Council would be established to advise the government on the issues which have an impact on the LGBTI community. “Same Sex : Same Civil Entitlements,” has therefore been written as a contribution to the deliberations of the Consultative Council being called by government.

The aim of the think-tank report was to examine means of improving the civil rights of LGBTI persons in Malta by ending discriminatory treatment and, specifically, to consider the two options of either a civil union scheme or same-sex marriage, and to make recommendations.

The report considered the issue under eight sections, ranging from the position in other European countries, to an examination of whether Malta should introduce civil unions or same-sex marriages, to the benefits of a civil union scheme, and the consideration of some key aspects of legislation before the introduction of new laws.

It concluded that the benefits to Maltese society of recognising same-sex relationships through the establishment of a civil union scheme would be considerable.The creation of a new legal relationship for same-sex couples would play an important role in increasing the social acceptance in Maltese society of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and trans-genders, removing discrimination and thus building a more inclusive and fairer society.

Civil partnerships would also provide a framework for same-sex couples to acknowledge their responsibilites, manage their financial affairs together and achieve legal recognition as civil partners.

The introduciton of legislation to enact such rights would act as an important step in publicly accepting stable, same-sex relationships, where couples have made a serious decision to seek legal and permanent recognition of their relationship. Civil partnerships would be a way through which society would acknowledge their relationship and overcome the stigma that currently attaches to them.

The report therefore recommends that formal recognition should be given to the rights of same-sex couples through the enactment of civil union legislation taking into account the key issues affecting future legislation, such as children, adoption, succession arrangements, pensions, dissolution of civil unions and others. The report does not disguise what such legislation will entail and the difficult issues which legislators will have to weigh up, for example on the position of children.

Among other things, it strongly recommends that anti-discrimination legislation should be enacted to safeguard the rights of LGBTI people. That the Maltese Criminal Code should be amended to make homo-phobic and trans-phobic violence and hate-crimes a criminal offence. That the relevant employment and industrial relations laws should be amended to curb harassment and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. And that amendments should be made to the terms of reference of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality to extend its responsibility to cater for cases of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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