Anti-gay laws advocate awarded Republic Day honour

Transgender Joanne Cassar shares Republic Day honours list with Russian Speaker, a firm supporter of anti-gay laws.

Russian Speaker Valentina Matviyenko with MAltese Speaker Anglu Farrugia.
Russian Speaker Valentina Matviyenko with MAltese Speaker Anglu Farrugia.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat passionately defended the government's draft bill regulating same-sex relationships.

Two days later, the Maltese State awarded an honorary membership to the National Order of Merit to the head of Russia's Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, a well-known supporter of anti-gay laws.

Matviyenko was among the list of Republic Day awards, in recognition of her contribution towards the enhancement of bilateral cooperation and the friendly relations between the people of Malta and the Russian Federation.

However, Matviyenko, described as the most powerful woman in Russia, promoted the anti-gay law which penalises "propaganda of non-traditional sex relations."

In July, Russia's parliament unanimously approved a federal law banning gay propaganda amid a Kremlin push to enshrine deeply conservative values that critics say has already led to a sharp increase in anti-gay violence.

In recent months, international gay rights campaigners, including Maltese activists, have supported Russia's struggling gay rights movement and called for an end to the imposition's of Vladimir Putin's patriarchal values promoted by the church and the government.

The government's decision to give the highest possible award bestowed on foreigners to Matviyenko jars with the Labour administration's drive to introduce the civil unions law.

Shooting down the Opposition's proposal to carry out a social impact study on adoptions by same-sex couples, this week Muscat emphatically stressed that he would not compromise on basic principles such as civil rights.

Mativiyenko's award was one of four honours awarded to foreigners, however it was the only controversial one, with the others going to business leaders with direct links to Malta.

However, as pointed out by author Alex Vella Gera, who refused a Republic Day honour, Mativiyenko's name was on the same list which included transsexual Joanne Cassar who was awarded an honour in recognition of her "distinguished service towards a fairer society and the common good of the people of Malta."