Why Malta Still Needs Pride
The most colourful celebration of equality, love and LGBTQ+ rights that Malta has ever seen and continues to grow year on year, saw Triton Fountain, and the streets of Valletta strewn in Pride flags, bravery, honesty and integrity.
Thousands of people walked in the streets showing their truth, without fear of persecution; something very different than just a few years ago in Malta, but still an ongoing problem in many other parts of the world today.
Last weekend showed how far Malta has come in terms of LGBTQ+ rights being achieved. It is one of the highest places in the world for LGBTQ+ rights, even by Europe’s standards; homosexuality has been decriminalised since 1973, since 2012 hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been illegal, work place discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation has been illegal since 2004, a bill granted for LGBT couples to have civil unions passed in 2013 and four years later evolved so that same-sex couples could be recognised as a marriage, adoption has been legal for LGBT couples since 2014, LGBTQ+ people can serve in the Armed Forces of Malta, and this year on 21st June 2018 amendments were signed into the Embryo Act of 2012 allowing IVF access for single women and LB+ women to help them get pregnant. And finally Malta became the first country in the European Union to ban conversion therapy. All together, as an English native expat, I am very proud that my guest country has become so progressive, very rapidly over the last twenty years.
However, certain placards amongst the parade served as a stark reminder of where we need to go and the obstacles that still have to be overcome.
“I CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT FOR A GENDER CLINIC”. Just recently Alternattiva Demokratika called on the government to speed up plans for a gender clinic specialised in services for trans and non-binary persons to be built and opened. The plans for this were first promised in 2015. Fast-forward three years later, and still not delivered.
Gay men still cannot give blood, a ban has been reviewed but even if signed into law, gay and bisexual men would still be excluded for a further 12 months. Digital content creators such as Calum McSwiggan have already proven that despite “progress” it is still difficult to give blood with that 12 month exemption.
It is fantastic that primary health care is free for everyone in Malta, without fear of discrimination, but did you know health-related treatment to avoid medical issues for the LGBT community is not free? Pre-exposure prophylaxis otherwise known as PreP is available to purchase but this year alone it is considerably expensive to pay for. PreP is a HIV prevention strategy where HIV-negative individuals take anti-HIV medications before coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of becoming infected. The medications work to prevent HIV from establishing infection inside the body. PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of HIV infection through sex for gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and heterosexual men and women, as well as among people who inject drugs, and depending on how often it is taken, the estimated level of protection can be anywhere between 76% to 99%. So if it is a medication that is statistically known to protect , and where the evidence speaks for itself why the delay? And finally, the fact that protection for LGBT couples who experience domestic violence is still being discussed in government is appalling (no protection currently offered in law), and Edwin Vassallo is the only MP who opposes the bill being proposed recently,, so why is that? His voting record on LGBTQ+ rights isn’t that great either, and has opposed gay marriage. Why am I not surprised?
In conclusion, yes Pride is a celebration, in the UK, Canada, US and other progressive European countries such as Malta. Let’s show off our colours, forget the suffocation we experienced before we came out. Let us expats celebrate that we can walk in hand in hand with our loved ones without fear of reprisal in our guest country. But let’s not forget the rest of the work that needs to be done and the road ahead, so to that end whilst Pride is a celebration and we should showcase what we have achieved, show off our truth, let’s not forget what took for us to get here, and to protest what still needs to be delivered.
I am proud not afraid to show off my colours and celebrate our achievements, but I always will protest.