‘Malta best example of move for better acceptance of gay communities’

US envoy on Human Rights for LGBTI persons Randy Berry says Malta is the best example of the global move towards the acceptance of LGBTI communities.

Special envoy Randy Berry with US Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley (at left) Photo: Ray Attard
Special envoy Randy Berry with US Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley (at left) Photo: Ray Attard

US special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons Randy Berry hailed Malta a leading example in the push for the rights of the LGBTI community.

In a meeting held at the President's Palace and co-hosted by the President's Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the Gender Liberation group, Berry spoke to members of various NGOs about their efforts and challenges faced in the local community.

Berry explained that since his appointment as envoy in April 2015, he had prioritised a visit to Malta due to its forays into the civil and legal rights of people from the LGBTI community.

“A reform and change in attitudes is based on leadership and visibility,” he said explaining that the Maltese community had demonstrated its commitment to the matter at hand by delving into virtually unknown territories.

“Malta is being treated as an example by many other countries due to its stand on LGBT issues,” Berry added, praising the community’s insistence on dialogue with the leaders and policy makers of the country.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Gender Liberation, student organisation We Are, Drachma, AD LGBTIQ and ILGA.

Berry was also presented with a report on the subject, and he explained that he was currently travelling to various countries to understand each country’s stand and attitude towards the LGBT community.

Commenting after a lively discussion, Berry said that the US embassy would continue to be active in the pursuit of equal rights for the LGBTI community. He explained that the matter was particularly important to the US due to the country’s insistence on equality for all, even in the country’s very constitution.

“We have been working and still are working on issues that contradict the concept that we were all born equal,” he explained.

Berry added that central to these efforts was the belief that everyone had the same right to equality and dignity.

He added that he was impressed by the acceptance that had overruled prejudice in the country, which ultimately led to the introduction of laws that safeguard and promote equal rights. 

“It’s important for countries to move on various tracks and focus on both social and policy aspects,” Berry said. “The legislative changes in this country have created a space for long-term social changes.”

Berry also explained that many groups that were opposed to the rights of the LGBTI community on social, political and religious bases did so because they believed that the community was somehow hostile to the concept of a family.

“Malta’s acceptance of the civil unions bill shows the country’s insistence on the Family as a central and consistent aspect of society,” he said.

The Policy officer for MGRM Claire Calleja said that the organisation was working to further push for the rights of the gay community through initiatives like the presentation of a draft policy on the rights of LGBTIQ in prisons, as well as a project focused on the reporting of hate crimes. She also added that the organization was working towards promoting LGBTI literature in local schools, for various age groups, alongside the distribution of resource kits for teachers.

Berry agreed that education was the best way to spread acceptance in society, as prejudice was born of and motivated by ignorance rather than hatred.