'Social attitude to LGBTIQ community must catch up to legislation' - Dalli

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli opened a networking seminar between LGBTIQ, human rights organizations and representatives of different religions

Minister Helena Dalli opened the networking seminar
Minister Helena Dalli opened the networking seminar
Mario Gerada, on behalf of Drachma
Mario Gerada, on behalf of Drachma
NCPE Commissioner Renee Laiviera
NCPE Commissioner Renee Laiviera

Although the past few years have seen the rights of the LGBTIQ community enhanced considerably, acceptance on a more social level remains something of a challenge, social dialogue minister Helena Dalli said, opening a networking seminar between LGBTIQ, human rights organisations and representatives for various religions and beliefs in the country. 

Dalli pointed out that the government had placed the needs of LGBTIQ communities on its manifesto and that the groups present had brought international attention to the country's forward thinking attitude towards LGBTIQ rights. She added that the government would be launching an action plan on LGBTIQ issues for 2015-2017 in the coming months.

Listing moves like the civil unions and gender identity bill, Dalli said that the next focus was more recognition and work between gender identity and religion among others. 

"Countries around the world, like Belgium for instance, are using our gender identity bill as a model for their own potential laws," Dalli said, adding that parliament had also extended the laws and rights to adopted people as well, who can register themselves in the identity they desire.

Listing other achievements over the years, Dalli stressed that intolerance towards LGBTIQ groups often stemmed from religious opposition. 

"Some issues that need to be addressed are the so-called conversion therapies, and the government will soon be proposing a law making these therapies illegal locally," she said stressing that homosexuality and transexuality were not illnesses. 

"Being LGBTIQ is not anti-religion and the two are not mutually exclusive," she said, explaining that Drachma and Drachma Parents were testimony of this. 

National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) Commissioner Renee Laiviera explained that the meeting, designed to encourage discussions between different religions and cultures, was organized by the European Network on Religion and Belief (ENROB) and ILGA- Europe. 

Mario Gerada, of Drachma, spoke about the intersection of homosexuality and religion. He explained that the organization was born out of the desire to keep faith as an integral part of their lives.

"Religions struggle with certain ideas, and it is here that we have to play a role," he explained, saying that a space for discussion was necessary. 

Gerada said that the organization had worked to encourage and ensure the dialogue between religion and homosexuality. He explained that although the organisation had focused mainly on Christian and Catholic people, but that they were also in talks with Islam and Judaism among others.

Malta Gay Rights Movement chairman Gabi Calleja said that although she had essential disagreements with the Catholic church and its teachings on sexuality, she still felt it was an essential part of the national identity.

Addressing the need to encourage more acceptance in society, Calleja explained that an EU-wide FRA LGBT survey had looked at various issues like violence, daily and family life.  

"The survey shows that some 54% felt comfortable holding the hand of a same-sex partner and only some 40% were out as gay at their work places." 

Quoting the statstics, Calleja added that some 89% of respondents felt that religion played an important part in how accepted LGBTIQ people felt and said that they strongly agreed with the idea that more acceptance among religious leaders would encourage more comfortable living for LGBTI communities.

She also explained that the survey had shown that many were less open about their LGBTIQ status according to the place they were in, with 79% quoting public spaces like streets, car parks and squares, and 77% quoting public transport as dangerous spots. 

Calleja said that although legislation had gone a long way, many places had remained unsafe. 

"Public perceptions are much more long-term, and they require years of raising children with better opinions and attitudes towards LGBTIQ communities," Calleja added. 

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