Sports, schools and workplaces are next frontier for LGBTIQ strategy

Malta will be exporting its LGBTIQ civil rights strategy to countries in Asia and the Pacific as country embarks on new educational strategy

A day ahead of Malta's gay pride march, government releases second LGBTIQ strategy
A day ahead of Malta's gay pride march, government releases second LGBTIQ strategy

Improving the lives of LGBTIQ people at schools, on the workplace and on the sports field, will be the next target for government action on equality.

This forms part of a new LGBTIQ strategy unveiled today by Equality Minister Helena Dalli that will cover the next four years.

The strategy, which is the second of its kind, was approved by Cabinet and LGBTIQ activist Gabi Calleja has been tasked with the implementation of the action plan.

Calleja said measures will be implemented in various facets of life. “We want to make sure that in the realms of the workplace and education, resources are made available for an inclusive environment,” she said.

The aim is to ensure teachers will be exposed to an inclusive syllabus and are knowledgeable on the subject.

But the strategy will also encompass, for the first time, the sporting arena.

"The same aims will be directed at sport, which was previously overlooked,” Calleja said, adding that the government was in talks with the Malta Football Association about social responsibility and awareness campaigns.

Calleja said homophobia “is not the biggest challenge now” but “normalisation is”.

“Malta's second LGBTIQ strategy is another step forward to ensure normalisation,” she said.

Over the past five years Malta registered big progress in civil rights for the LGBTIQ community. It legislated for marriage equality last year, banned gay conversion therapy and introduced a gender identity law that made it easier for people to affirm their gender.

From left: Silvan Agius, Minister Helena Dalli, Gabi Calleja
From left: Silvan Agius, Minister Helena Dalli, Gabi Calleja

Equality Minister Helena Dalli said Malta will now act as a role model to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region after signing a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Development Programme.

Dalli said Malta was like a laboratory where the sample was the entire population. “For this reason, we can help so many different countries across the world,” she said.

The first strategy implemented in 2015 focused on legislation. “We have made significant progress in terms of law, earning us first place in the EU on LGBT rights, but this is not enough. The new strategy will make sure that the livelihood of LGBT people will improve,” Dalli said.

Asked whether progress on LGBTIQ legislation had made an impact on public opinion, Dalli told MaltaToday that the legislative framework normalised LGBTIQ issues.

“We widened the conversation. After all, rationality does not need force. People realised that this is not something to fear,” she said.

Dalli said it was never acceptable for legislators to allow inequality to develop between different societal realties.

Silvan Agius, director of the Human Rights and Integration Directorate, said that an entire section dedicated to the LGBTIQ community was founded within the directorate. “The action plan is an exercise in mainstreaming,” he added.

Agius quoted the Eurobarometer survey of 2015 and said that Malta saw a 17% increase in positive perception towards the gay community.

The next survey will be released in October of this year. “I expect an even more positive result,” he added.

The new strategy came a day before the pride march is held in Valletta. The minister hoped to see heterosexual people at the event.

“Pride is no longer a protest but a celebration,” Dalli said.

Auberge de Castille, which houses the prime minister’s office, will showcase its solidarity by having its facade lit with the rainbow flag.

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