House starts debating conversion therapy law amendments

A new amendment to the conversion therapy law will clarify the definition of advertising of conversion practices

File photo
File photo

Parliament on Monday started debating amendments to the Conversion Therapy legislation that will clarify what constitutes the promotion or advertising of such practice.

“We believe in a society which is open to everyone, and these amendments ensure our commitment to improving human rights in the country,” Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Rebecca Buttigieg said in parliament on Monday.

Conversion therapy refers to any treatment, practice or sustained effort that aims to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

These practices are already illegal in Malta according to the 2016 Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Bill.

The proposed bill will amend the advertising aspect of the law, which will be defined as publishing, advertising, displaying, distributing, linking to or circulating any content that promotes or entices people to undergo conversion therapy.

Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg
Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg

Buttigieg said the practices do not work, and only serve to inflict psychological damage on the individuals who decide to participate in the practice.

She said the right to express one’s self, does not automatically give one the right to speak against legislation enacted in parliament.

“If cocaine is illegal, can you advertise it? No, so the same with gay conversion therapy,” she said.

The MP also said government’s decision to amend the law came after discussions with stakeholders. “We realised the need to define the promotion of such practices.”

Rebecca Buttigieg said the change in mentality when it comes to how people view and treat LGBTIQ+ individuals came after legislation was enacted.

She said other European countries have followed in Malta’s footsteps to enact similar legislation. “This amendment will continue to strengthen our credential among European countries.”

“Rights are rights, and we as legislators must ensure that people are given the rights they deserve. Everyone has the right to live their life the way they want, and love whoever they want,” she said.

A duty to call out the far-right – Randolph De Battista

Addressing the House, Randolph De Battista, who is openly gay himself, said LGBTIQ+ rights should not be taken for granted, and politicians have a duty to call out hate.

He said that Malta has been a trail-blazer when it comes to civil rights, and while other countries are contemplating enacting the law, the country is already refining it.

The Labour MP slammed far-right politician Ivan Grech Mintoff’s post claiming trans-rights oppose women’s rights.

“Yes, we have politicians who are pushing the agenda of hate,” he said.

He said the criticism made against a Żigużajg performance tackling gender fluidity was unfounded.

“We need more education on this issue, education based on science, not on what someone thinks,” he said.

Labour MP Randolph De Battista
Labour MP Randolph De Battista

He also spoke about the time he came out to his parents, stating that while he found an accepting environment, this is not the same for others.

“Some might find an accepting environment, others not so much, but then you have people who are forced to attend therapy to repress these feelings,” he said. “These practices try to convince people that what they are feeling will pass.”

He mentioned cases of individuals who were force to attend conversion therapy. “One person told me that they feel that the Pastor (Gordon John Manche) would convince her that she would never find love.”

PN may have been overly cautious in the past – Graziella Galea

Addressing the House, Nationalist MP Graziella Galea said the PN would be endorsing the Bill, labelling conversion therapy as a fake form of therapy based on “fear and shame” and designed to harm its subjects psychologically.

“Sexual orientation is not a choice,” Attard Previ said. “Just as you do not choose to be born, or whether you are left or right-handed, you do not choose your sexual orientation.”

She acknowledged Labour governments had driven civil rights forward over the past decade, while also admitting that the PN she formed part of had at times been “overly cautious”.

Galea warned that while legislation has been enacted, mentalities have not changed. She said government must strive to ensure a greater effort is made to educate people