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Gozitan LGBTI+ Group Calls For State-Funded Gender Affirmative Surgery

Gozo’s only queer organisation has called for gender affirmation surgery to no longer be considered a cosmetic procedure and to be provided for free by the government. The proposal is one of several put forward by LGBTI+ Gozo in a policy paper on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights (SRHR) in Malta.

The organisation offers a variety of services to queer youths and elders, as well as to parents of queer individuals.

It also works with educators, civil society group and the general public to provide community outreach to facilitate diversity and inclusion with the Gozitan community.

“The laws show that there is an underlying problem in our patriarchal system and treatment for equal footing between man, woman and other genders is still a future utopian idea,” the paper explained.

“We believe that as an organisation, we have a key role in achieving the breakthrough needed to enhance policy change within our grassroots movement, whilst starting a conversation that breaks the stigmas placed on queer people by social norms,” it continued, before introducing its 10 proposals.

1. GU Clinic

The first GU clinic in Gozo was opened in May 2021 with the help of LGBTI+ Gozo and 18 other organisations. Seeing that the clinic is still new, developments and improvements need to be made, the organisation said. It endorsed calls for more investment in both the Gozitan and Maltese GU clinics while reminding stakeholders that a “financial injection in the operation of the clinics is urgently needed”.

They’re also calling for longer hours for the recruitment and training of new staff. Moreover, the organisation also suggested that a counselling service that works in parallel with the GU clinic be set up. This service would provide support and guidance on sexual health, chemsex and substance use, and other queer issues.

2. Information and Services

In order to increase accessibility to relevant information, the organisation has proposed that health authorities embark on an educational campaign about subjects related to sexual and mental health.

This would take the form of leaflets being placed in educational institutions, as well as digital campaigns and other promotional material. It reiterated its call for free contraceptives to be made available in post-secondary and tertiary schools.

3. Mobile Clinic

A sexual health mobile clinic that tours Malta offering services such as rapid tests, counselling services and free contraceptives is another of LGBTI+’s important recommendations. Noting that “prevention is better than cure”, the policy paper suggests that the mobile clinic be an extension of the GU Clinic’s services and would support the idea of the local government mainstreaming sexual health awareness.

4. Morning After Pill

The organisation prefaced that the Morning After Pill should be free for all and made available through different means.

However, recent statistics collected by MaltaToday revealed that, on Sundays and public holidays in Gozo, neither of the only two pharmacies open sold the morning-after pill, further highlighting the need for urgent action.

The organisation is therefore suggesting that the emergency contraceptive pill be given for free in cases of emergency from local clinics or public hospitals.

5. Gender Neutral Bathrooms

In 2015, Malta introduced a third gender under the Gender Identity Act that recognises genders outside of the binary.

“In order to support such a law, LGBTI+ Gozo is proposing an increase in gender-neutral bathrooms in public grounds and educational institutions.”

The organisation called on both private and public sectors to make gender-neutral bathrooms on each floor a prerequisite for any new development.

6. Conference about SRHR

LGBTI+ Gozo is currently running an educational campaign called ‘Better Together’, which links professional service providers and academics with key community leaders in Gozo.

The organisation is calling for a bi-annual multidisciplinary conference to be organised about sexual health and reproductive rights.

The conference would have a similar aim to the Better Together campaign and would also assess the impact of stigmatisation on society as a whole.

7. National Working Group

Another proposed is for the formation of a national working group under the Ministry for Health with the aim to support the multidisciplinary conference.

It would also be tasked with coming up with sustainable solutions that address the changing dynamic of Maltese society and to aid in the eventual writing and implementation of the National Sexual Health Strategy.

8. MSM Law

LGBTI+ Gozo urged for the current ban on MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donations to be lifted.

“Such homophobic laws still etched within our legal system are a reminder of legal loopholes that challenge the narrative that Malta celebrates equality within all aspects of life,” the paper said.

The repealing of the ban would ensure that this “archaic law is abolished once and for all and will present equal footing to all individuals who engage in anal sex”, the organisation said.

9. HIV Medication

HIV medication in Malta is free, however, the LGBTI+ wants to mainstream it further in order to bring about a shift in the predominant cultural mindset in order to normalise conversations about sex and sexual activity.

Hence, it is urging for HIV medication to be updated with the latest medication made accessible. And that it should be available within the Pharmacy of Your Choice structure – a system whereby you choose a pharmacy in your locality to get your medication delivered to it.

10. Gender-affirming Surgery

This type of procedure gives transgender people a body that aligns with their gender and in Malta, these surgeries are considered to be a cosmetic procedure. Therefore, LGBTI+ Gozo is calling for gender-affirmation surgery to be provided free of charge by the government, together with but not limited to affirmative wear like chest binders.

LGBTI+ Gozo called on all government entities, political stakeholders, civil society groups, and educational institutions, as well as the general public, to promote and encourage physical, sexual and mental wellbeing.

This, it said, was important to ensure that communities are aware of the ever-evolving dynamic of different sub-cultures, including the queer community living within a dominant society.

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