Thursday, 13 March 2014

Independent: Uganda ‘kill the gay bill’, ‘Come Out’ pledge top MEP candidates’ debate at University

PM's push back attempt further instigated racism - Cassola
Wednesday, 12 March 2014, 13:40

Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gay Bill’ campaign topped the MEP candidates’ discussion held at University Quadrangle today where PN, PL and AD candidates gave their views on the controversial issue which surrounds Uganda’s decision to imprison homosexuals while also giving their take on the gay rights pledge known as the ‘Come Out’ pledge.

Today’s event was organised by Insite, the student media organisation and the Grupp Universitarji Ghawdxin (GUG) as part of the European Parliament’s office in Malta campaign.

After years of controversy, the Ugandan parliament passed a bill that punishes certain acts of homosexuality with life in prison.

A Ugandan lawmaker first introduced the bill in 2009, sparking worldwide condemnation for tough measures that included the death penalty. It was briefly shelved amid the backlash. At the time, some European nations threatened to withdraw aid to Uganda, which relies on millions of dollars from the international community.

Replying to a question made by a representative of one of the student organisations which were present, if human aid to Uganda should be stopped as a result of the country’s decision related to homosexuals, while also being asked if they signed the ‘Come Out’ pledge, and if not why, AD MEP candidate Arnold Cassola, who was the first to reply, said that he had no problem signing the pledge since the party he represents strongly opposes discrimination and promotes individuals’ rights.

The pledge comprises a 10-point MEP election pledge by the International Lesbian-Gay Association of Europe (ILGA) to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The declaration makes no specific reference to gay marriages or adoptions, but calls on MEPs to support an “inclusive definition of the family” which recognises the diversity of family relationships, and to ensure the needs of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) families are increasingly reflected in EU policy and in its social legislation, including the parental leave directive.

PL MEP candidate Miriam Dalli said she signed the bill since it pushes forward the rights of LGBT but one had to be cautious where humanitarian aid is concerned since it is vulnerable people who are set to lose as a result of human aid to Uganda being stopped.

PN MEP candidate Kevin Plumpton said that he feels comfortable signing the pledge since he is strongly against discrimination as a whole, meaning in all aspects of society.

PL MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer said he signed the pledge which puts on the spot politicians in terms of if their words are being put into action. He said that the government is on track on LGBT rights and the LGBT consultative council, he heads, is drafting a gender identity bill, while also pointing out that a gender clinic would be set up at Mater Dei to provide free services to those individuals who wish to undergo a gender change.

He thanked PL MP Chris Fearne for the sterling work he is conducting in terms of ensuring that where operations related to gender changes are concerned, no wrong decision would be taken by an individual which may be regretted in the future.

He said that the issue of Uganda would be raised among world leaders during the CHOGM meeting to be held in Malta next year.

PN MEP candidate Stefano Mallia said that he has no problem signing the pledge either but highlighted that he has not signed the pledge as yet for the simple reason that “we would not like to sign the pledge for the sake of signing it but we would like to make a strong statement when signing the pledge against any form of discrimination.

On migration, Mr Plumpton said that something which bothers him is when politicians make certain pledges when they cannot be realistically implemented, referring to migration.

He said that one had to separate the two facets, that of asylum seeking, and illegal migration.

Mr Engerer said that Malta could not go on being treated differently simply because we are a smaller country.

He said that Gozo should be considered as a region by the European Union but this was met with harsh criticism from Prof Cassola who said that if one were to connect Malta and Gozo by means of a bridge, Gozo will not be considered a region.

Turning to migration, he said that the prime minister’s push back attempt and strong words towards the EU only instigated racism and made those individuals who dislike dark-skinned people feel comfortable to feel free and speak openly against them.

He told those present: “Don’t you think you have some tough prime minister simply because he made a strong statement towards the EU, threatening that he would attempt to push back migrants.”

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