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[WATCH] Gay Pride 2017: 'A message of hope to all those coming out'

This year’s gay pride, with the theme 'Love Life', honours Malta’s number one ranking as the most LGBTI+ friendly country in Europe. This was the largest ever pride event, with over 2,000 people celebrating in Valletta's St. George's Square.

Denise Grech
9 September 2017, 5:21pm
Last updated on 9 September 2017, 7:23pm
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Gay Pride 2017: 'A message of hope to all those coming out'
[SLIDESHOW] Photography by James Bianchi/MediaToday
[SLIDESHOW] Photography by James Bianchi/MediaToday
Changes in the law are not enough for people of different genders to feel accepted by society, Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat told MaltaToday during this year’s Gay Pride march being held in Valletta.

“The next step is to change people’s mentality. The changes in the law are great but we need to make sure everyone knows that being part of the LGBTI+ community is very normal and should be accepted. The changes in the law are not enough,” Muscat, under whose watch Malta introduced gay marriage, said.

Over 2,000 people flocked to Valletta to celebrate the 14th annual pride event. "I'm amazed," founder of Allied Rainbow Communities Eamonn Gomez Jimenez said. "Only 750 people attended the first ever pride. Today, at the largest pride event, over 2,000 people came to celebrate life and love."

Also present were Cabinet members Helena Dalli, Silvio Parnis and Julia Farrugia Portelli and outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil and MP Claudette Buttigieg.

Busuttil said he believed that this day showed that "we are one society... we are united."

Pride organiser Russell Sammut told MaltaToday that he believes that the pride symbolizes hope: “Today is a message to everyone that is coming out. There are so many people here supporting you, to accept you. You don’t have to be afraid”.

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Callejja recalled this year's theme, Love life, which she said arose because of Malta's advances in policy related to work and education for LGBTI+ individuals. "Amongst us are people who lived during a time when hiding their identity was a necessity. These people paved the way for today's youngsters to live out in the open."

Callejja also advocated for LGBTI health rights, calling for the removal of the current law that prohibits LGBTI+ community from donating blood.

"The government needs to include Prep, treatment that will protect the community from HIV,” she said.

Legalising gamete donation will also continue to further gay rights, allowing them to have children, she added.

St George’s Square quickly filled up with citizens, politicians and activists who came together in a colourful celebration of life and diversity. It is estimated that some 2,100 persons took part.

The mood was a visibly jovial and celebratory one, as crowds marched from St. Georges Square to Parliament.

This year’s Malta pride also honours Malta’s number one ranking as the most LGBTI+ friendly country in Europe, according to statistics published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). During the event, activists sought to raise awareness to improve and tackle LGBTI+ health related issues.

The mood was a jovial one as people waved rainbow-coloured flags and balloons. Many sported makeup and clothing featuring rainbows in celebration.

"Today is the day we come together as one spirit to celebrate love," said founder of LGBTI+ Gozo Eman Borg. "We're here to have fun to celebrate Malta's success in LGBTI+ rights."

Monique Agius, spokesperson for Partit Demokratiku told MaltaToday that "more needs to be done for transgender rights' health and education related to LGBTI+ rights, but we're moving in the right direction". MPs Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia did not attend the pride as the couple are currently abroad.

A giant rainbow flag was also unveiled as part of the celebrations.

The parade was a culmination of a series of events organised throughout the week, which included football tournaments and conferences on topics such as mental health in the LGBTI+ community and sex workers rights.

The event was organised by NGOs Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC), Malta Gay Rights Movement, Drachma, We Are, LGBTI+ Gozo, Civil Society Network along with The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the Ministry for Social Dialogue and Civil Liberties.