Minister insists plans still on the table to distribute LGBTIQ books to schools

Civil liberties minister says government still intends to distribute LGBTIQ+ friendly books in schools, but only after undergoing an information campaign amongst concerned parents and teachers 

Civil liberties minister Helena Dall addresses Parliament
Civil liberties minister Helena Dall addresses Parliament

The government still intends to distribute LGBTIQ+ friendly books amongst primary state schools, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli insisted.

“These books aim to educate children about the diversity of human life, to explain to them that people are not homogenous human beings,” Dalli said in a parliamentary debate about her ministry ahead of a Budget vote. “I believe that children who read these books will be more open and less hostile to LGBTIQ+ people and that we’ll be falling short as a government if we fail to educate our children in diversity.”

The Malta Gay Rights Movement in July donated a set of LGBTIQ-friendly books to the education ministry for distribution in set primary schools. However, the news was met by an uproar amongst parents and teachers who warned the MGRM was trying to “indoctrinate their children”.

A Facebook group “Parents and teachers against gender indoctrination of our children in schools” was set up and has garnered 6,302 followers at the time of writing.

Last week, education minister Evarist Bartolo took a step back and insisted that the books would not be distributed to students.

“I don’t blame parents who have expressed concern on this matter, but I want to assure them that these books have not and will not be distributed to their children,” Bartolo had said in comments to the press.

In his speech in the parliamentary debate, Opposition MP Clyde Puli questioned whether Bartolo and Dalli are “pulling the same rope” and argued that the uproar was to be expected after the government introduced such “rapid and radical changes” to society in the LGBTIQ+ sphere.

However, Dalli insisted that the books will still be distributed amongst schools, but only after the government launches a widespread information campaign amongst parents and teachers.

“Bartolo did the right thing by lending an ear to the genuinely worried parents,” she said. “However, anyone who reads these books will realize that they are simply books about the everyday lives of LGBTIQ people, to explain the many factes of diversity and that not everybody is either a girl or a boy.

“I believe in the contents of these books, but we must enhance our efforts to explain them to parents and teachers.

“Our progress towards improved civil rights and a stronger economy won’t be complete if we turn our heads at the bullying of LGBTIQ+ students.

Dalli hailed the government’s advances in the LGBTIQ+ sector and confirmed that it will soon table a Bill in Parliament to propose the criminalization of LGBTIQ+ conversion therapy.

She pointed out that 36 people have so far legally changed their gender since a historic Gender Identity Law was passed in Parliament last April. In contrast, only 21 people had legally changed their gender identity between 2000 and April 2015, when the law had required that people undergo sexual reassignment surgery prior to changing their gender in official documents.

“Those teenagers who had locked themselves up at home and had contemplated suicide because their ID cards didn’t reflect their gender identity can now easily align their legal gender status with their gender identity,” she said.