Sunday, 28 May 2017

Malta Today: Malta retains top place in Europe gay rights ranking

2016 saw Malta introduced gender identity law and ban on harmful conversion practices, but issues remain outstanding with access to reproductive health for same sex couples still criminalised
Matthew Vella, 17 May 2017, 9:00am, Print Version

After introducing civil unions in 2014, both parties now approve of gay marriage

For the second year running Malta ranks first on ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index, maintaining its classification among 49 Council of Europe Member States where LGBTIQ legislation and policy are concerned.

In 2016 Malta introduced the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act, banning harmful gay conversion practices and ensuring that no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression could be considered an illness or disease.

The Trans, Gender Variant and Intersex Inmates Policy was also adopted by Corradino Correctional Services providing guidelines to be followed by correctional services.

“These legal and policy changes were accompanied by a strong civil society sector with a number of LGBTIQ NGOs actively involved in raising awareness, providing training and supporting LGBTIQ individuals and their families through a number of support groups and services,” the Malta Gay Rights Movement said.

“Some issues remain outstanding particularly in the area of access to health. Malta still lacks trans-sensitive and specific health services, its HIV treatment formulary is out-dated and far from what could be considered best practice, and access to reproductive health for same sex couples remains criminalised,” MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja said.

The ILGA-Europe Rainbow Index highlights the vast disparities that continue to exist between different countries where LGBTIQ rights are concerned. Malta retained its top ranking with an 88% score, with Norway anad the UK in second and third place.

Besides attention-grabbing changes such as legal gender recognition in France and Norway, civil unions in Italy, and a ban on conversion therapy in Malta, the risks to progress in countries at both ends of the Rainbow Europe country ranking remain.

“One of the most common questions ILGA-Europe get asked by national governments is how to improve their ranking on the Rainbow Europe Map – the answer is political backbone. Political leaders need to understand that, if they don’t act now, the LGBTI equality gains we’ve all made together over the past few decades can be rolled back,” ILGA-Europe executive director Evelyne Paradis said.

“At the top of the Map, there is still work to do to make sure LGBTI people can live freely, and at the other end of the ranking, we see LGBTI people are literally living in fear of their lives. Our movement’s work is not over yet.”

Some risks are immediately obvious and painful, such as the gross human rights violations in Chechnya, not only for the fear such actions perpetrate in the local LGBTI community, but also the message of intolerance that this sends to the wider region.

“From the growing use of the refugee debate to shamefully fuel xenophobia, and so-called ‘populist’ parties directly appealing to the LGBTI community by vilifying other communities, and incidentally not supporting LGBTI policies in practice, to increased security measures in the name of anti-terrorism, and the silencing of independent media or universities, we can see the worrying potential this all has to undermine the work of LGBTI activists,” Paradis said.

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