Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Malta Today: Malta urged to be firm with Russia against gay discrimination

Maltese government has to enter into bilateral agreement with Russia over adoptions after it enacts civil unions law
Thursday 28 November 2013 - 07:30 by Miriam Dalli

Russia will seek an agreement with Malta before proceeding with pending adoption applications.

The Maltese authorities should take a firm stand with Russia in favour of fundamental human rights and against any forms of discrimination, human rights activist and aditus foundation director Neil Falzon said.

He said that in all its bilateral negotiations, Malta should be open and transparent about its acceptance of same-sex couples adopting children.

Malta is currently holding bilateral talks with Russia to negotiate an agreement on adoption by Maltese couples of Russian children.

Now that Russia has passed legislation banning the adoption of children by same-sex couples, the new bilateral agreement between the two countries must reflect the new legal norms in Russia in order to allow further adoptions to be made by Malta.

In simple terms, the highest probability is that the bilateral agreement will continue to allow heterosexual couples to adopt Russian children but will ban homosexual couples from doing so.

Malta has not yet been placed on the restrictive list, which has seen countries allowing same-sex marriage barred from adopting children from Russia.

With the Maltese parliament in the process of legalising civil unions, questions have been raised as to whether Malta should halt all adoptions from the northern Eurasian country in order to show its solidarity with homosexual couples and in respect of its belief that there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But Falzon is of the belief that Malta should not stop adoptions from Russia. "No, we don't think Malta should stop adoptions from Russia as that would certainly prejudice the children losing a lifetime opportunity to be offered a loving family environment," Falzon told MaltaToday.

"It would also be unfair to limit the openings for heterosexual couples wishing to adopt, as current adoption possibilities are already extremely limited."

According to information on adoptions last tabled in parliament in 2011, a total of 362 children were adopted between 2005 and 2011. 159 of the adoptions were made from Russia.

However, Falzon insisted that Malta should be "open and transparent" over its acceptance that same-sex couples should enjoy the same opportunities granted to homosexual couples.

"Transparency is important in order for such negotiations to be conducted in an open manner and also so as not to prejudice any possible future applications by same-sex couples," he said.

Falzon added that it was the Russian's authorities that decided that same-sex couples should be banned from adopting. "While we cannot agree with Russia's homophobic stance, not only in this regard but in relation to recent incidents in the country, Malta cannot be blamed," he said.

"However, we do urge the Maltese authorities to take a firm stand with Russia in favour of fundamental human rights and against any forms of discrimination."

Both Family Minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli said Malta could not interfere with legislation passed by other countries.

Coleiro Preca has also met the Russian Ambassador to discuss the issue. It has been reported that parents waiting to adopt from Russia have been informed that adoptions have been "put on hold", although the Russian embassy has insisted that there were currently no legal obstacles for Maltese heterosexual couples to adopt.

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