[WATCH] Equality plan includes IVF leave entitlement and gender-neutral police uniforms

Equality minister hopes gender equality strategy can lead to change in mentality

Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that efforts must now focus on the grassroots level in order to bring about a change in mentality
Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that efforts must now focus on the grassroots level in order to bring about a change in mentality
Equality plan includes IVF leave entitlement and gender-neutral police uniforms

Equality minister Edward Zammit Lewis said he wants to strive for a change in mentality that can follow on Malta’s legislative changes on LGBTIQ equality in various aspects of life in Malta.

Speaking at a conference on LGBTIQ rights and equality, organised by the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Unit within the Human Rights and Integration Directorate, Zammit Lewis insisted that a lot more needed to be done in achieving LGBTIQ equality.

“The challenge before us is to forge a mentality revolution, starting at the grassroots level and addressing the whole Maltese spectrum,” Zammit Lewis said.

The conference presented the unit's work between September 2018 and September this year. Zammit Lewis spoke about the measures that were launched as part of the action plan last year.

“Strategies and action plans are very important for setting out the government’s vision and commitments. That is where the real work begins,” he said, praising the unit for its work in coordinating its work with the country’s various stakeholders.

Gabi Calleja, the head of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Characteristics Unit (SOIGIGESC), gave an overview of the unit’s progress on a Strategy and Action plan which was launched last year, and which will run into 2022.

Calleja said that while much had already been achieved, much more remained to be done.

The strategy was divided into 10 pillars: right to equality and freedom from discrimination; right to education; right to health; equality in sport; the right to private and family life; freedom from hatred; the LGBTIQ civil society; the right to seek asylum; and the promotion of LGBTIQ equality on an international level.

The unit’s work so far has included the introduction of a number of laws, while others such as the Equality Act and the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act, were still Bills before Parliament. Both laws will tackle different levels of discrimination and inequalities.

The unit has also worked on updating blood donation criteria for men who have sex with men, which Calleja said, while still unsatisfactory for the gay community, was nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Changes to Malta’s IVF leave entitlement as well as gender-neutral uniforms for police officers are soon to be launched, Calleja said.

Furthermore, the unit will continue to oversee the training of care workers with the elderly, as well as on integration programmes being provided by the government.

On the educational front, a module on Sexual and Gender Diversity at the University of Malta being offered in conjunction with the Faculty of Education was launched as part of the Liberal Arts and Science Degree.

A master’s degree module is also in the pipeline, Calleja said.

The unit’s work in the health sector has focused on three main areas, including the talks on improving HIV treatment, the opening of a gender wellbeing clinic in Mtarfa, and ensuring that HIV self-testing kits are available in pharmacies.  

The unit has also worked closely with the Malta Football Association in launching the Everyone's Game awareness campaign. Other campaigns are in the pipeline.

Work was also ongoing on introducing laws which facilitate access to reproductive and health services and adoption by same-sex couples.

More in National