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17th Feb 2019

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Maltese PM: no such thing as a la carte equality

  • Muscat: 'It is for politicians to lead by example, and to not be led by prejudice' (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

Tomorrow – 17 May – is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idaho). On days like these, politicians need to reflect on whether they have worked to enhance equality or played safe and, possibly, let vulnerable communities fall by the wayside.

I believe that equality cannot be a la carte. It either is, or is not. It is important to have conviction and a clear strategy.

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It is from this basis that my government is working to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in Malta. We campaigned vigorously for equality at the last election, and are now eager to implement it.

Our approach was to build a partnership early on in our term. We set up the LGBTI Consultative Council, composed of LGBTI civil society representatives, mandated to propose laws and policies as deemed necessary.

This partnership has been an ingredient to our success on LGBTI issues during the past year.

Firstly, we changed the Civil Code to allow trans people to marry according to their gender.

Secondly, we introduced civil unions for same-sex and different-sex couples alike, which include all the rights and duties of marriage.

Thirdly, we introduced an amendment to the anti-discrimination article within the Constitution to include protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is likely that we are the first country in the world to have an express reference to gender identity in our Constitution.

The journey towards equality is, of course, not nearly complete. We will be proposing a Gender Identity Bill, and will need to ensure that the various changes to the legal framework bring the expected traction in society.

I am of course very pleased that our hard work on the matter has notched us several places up on ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index this year, in which we reached the 11th spot in Europe. Most gratifying is the fact that we were the fastest developing country on LGBTI rights on the continent.

In spite of the growing visibility of LGBTI issues across Europe, I feel that not nearly enough is being done to stamp out homophobia and transphobia. I would thus like to reiterate the call by several EU member states to the European Commission for the adoption of a specific strategy on LGBTI rights.

Likewise, I would like to call on countries to come forward and clearly declare that they intend to champion LGBTI rights as part of their human rights agenda, without compromises based on traditional, cultural or religious values.

At this week’s Idaho Forum, which my government had the pleasure to co-host with the Swedish Government, 17 governments did just that. They signed the Idaho Declaration of Intent and publicly announced their intentions to work jointly for LGBTI equality in their domestic settings as well as at regional and international level.

I do hope that during the coming weeks and months, that number of countries will grow and will become significant enough to allow for concrete and enhanced co-operation on LGBTI equality in a way not previously possible.

It is for politicians to lead by example, and to not be led by prejudice.

It is with this belief that I extend my hand to all political leaders of goodwill around the world to work jointly for full inclusion of LGBTI people.

When we extend human rights within society, we all stand a little taller.

The writer is the Prime Minister of Malta

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