...But 2021 wasn't a bed of roses for the LGBTIQ community in Malta.
ILGA - Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association has published the 2021 annual report and its rainbow index.
To no surprise really, Malta still has retained the 1st position from a total of 49 countries situated in the Pan-European continent with a score of 93.78%
ILGA-Europe track each country using a wide range of indicators; covering everything from equality, family issues and hate speech to legal gender recognition, freedom of expression and asylum rights. These benchmarking measures were first used by ILGA-Europe in 2009 and have been expanded on ever since. You can find out more about the individual criteria that ILGA-Europe use to create each Rainbow
The rankings are based on how the laws and policies of each country impact on the lives of LGBTI people. The ranking records a country’s legal standards for comparison with its European neighbours but the numbers only provide one part of the story. Our Annual Review gives a more nuanced, detailed overview of every country’s progress over the last twelve months and has a chapter dedicated to each country as well as developments at international level.
As a matter of fact, the Malta report for 2021 indicates a reflection of what went on last year.
Colombia joined Portugal as one of two countries from which Maltese same-sex couples are able to adopt.
Malta and its MEP Cyrus Engerer took a lead on the European Parliament’s resolution to declare the EU an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone, following the adoption of a propaganda law in Hungary and continued attacks against the LGBTIQ community in Poland.
The National Statistics Office, for the first time, included questions on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as race, ethnic origin, religion and belief in the National Census conducted at the end of the year.
Malta’s Gender Well-being Clinic shared in March that it has welcomed 200 trans people since its opening in 2018. A new plastic surgeon was appointed in the autumn, who will be responsible for providing breast surgeries. Training on addressing barriers to healthcare for LGBTIQ persons was delivered by the Maltese SOGIGESC Unit to 180 health practitioners and sensitisation training was conducted with 300 reception staff working in healthcare settings. The website www.transhealth.gov.mt was launched in June.
MGRM’s Dar Qawsalla (Rainbow House) was one of four special housing proposals by the Ministry for Social Accommodation. The scheme allocates government-owned dilapidated buildings to NGOs who are tasked with, and given the necessary funds to carry out repair works. Dar Qawsalla will be the first LGBTIQ-specialised accommodation in Malta. MGRM is currently in the process of restoring the house it was awarded in San Gwann. It is planned to open the house in 2023.
After announcing its support for Euro Pride 2023 last year, the Ministry for Justice, Equality and Governance signed a grant agreement with the organisers in May. The 300,000 euro grant will be disbursed over the course of the next three years. Euro Pride 2023 will be held in Valletta.
In December, the Ministry for Equality, Research and Innovation and the Ministry for Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide support and community services to LGBTIQ persons and their families with a budget of 400,000 euro over three years.
The Maltese Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex, Sexuality & Gender were adopted by Cabinet and launched in November.
The Malta Police Force introduced new recruitment policies that removed differential selection criteria based on gender, and which will ensure an equal playing field for trans applicants
The government issued a new policy, whereby asylum seekers from “safe countries’’ will not be eligible for a work permit for the first nine months following arrival. The regulation will also affect LGBTIQ asylum seekers.
A British lesbian singer and her partner were verbally harassed during their holiday in Malta. Two men were fined for anti-trans hate speech against a trans woman.
Following a shortage of HIV medications towards the end of 2020, which led NGOs to crowdsource treatment for distribution to impacted persons, an updated HIV formulary was introduced towards the end of 2020. The rolling-out process continued throughout 2021. As yet PrEP and PEP remain available against payment.
Malta is confirmed as having one of the highest HIV transmission rates in Europe, 15.9 per 100,000 people, compared to a European average of just 3.7 per 100,000
MGRM shared its concern this year that the police response to incidents of hate speech or hate crime remain flawed and insufficient. In 2020, MGRM’s online survey found that over 50% of LGTBQI respondents felt unsafe in Paceville, Malta’s main nightclub hub, and reported being denied entry into clubs or harassment. In July for instance, news articles circulated about homophobic bouncers in a club. Civil society called for more targeted action again this year, including training and awareness raising.
Work on a sexual health policy became stalled in October as a first draft of the policy, which was submitted to the Minister for Health, was based on outdated information. MGRM called for consultation with NGOs and other stakeholders in order to avoid a similar mistake in the future.
The process of adopting the Equality Act, which would further strengthen rights protections for LGBTI people, continued to be stalled this year while the Ministry for Equality, Research and Innovation undertook the drafting of further amendments that will mostly affect the ability of the proposed Human Rights and Equality Commission to issue penal sanctions
Leading regional and national NGOs expressed support for Malta’s plans to decriminalise sex work, which was first from a number of NGOs in Malta who do not agree with the plan. In October, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner called on Malta to stop criminalising abortion.
Correction on FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY paragraph:
ARC, as organisers of Malta Pride, would like to point out that although in 2021, a Pride March was not held, it still held a week of events between the 10th to the 19th September 2021 with a variety of community discussions, social gatherings, a Pride Concert and even a boat parade along the Grand Harbour.