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Malta ranked low in gay rights

A gay rights demonstration held recently in Valletta.

A gay rights demonstration held recently in Valletta.

Malta's laws do not yet do enough to protect the rights of gay, lesbian and transsexual people, according to an EU-wide index published by ILGA, the international gay and lesbian association.

The island gained just one point out of a maximum of 10 in an index measuring legislation affecting the human rights of LGBT people.

Malta's only law that guarantees that no discrimination is permitted on the basis of sexual orientation is related to employment. On the other hand, the island still lacks laws in the Constitution or that give rights in relation to the provision of goods and services, while hate speech is still not considered a crime where sexual orientation is involved.

According to the Rainbow Europe Country Index, Malta is grouped with the countries that have the poorest level of protection of human rights to the gay community, together with a number of Catholic/Orthodox strongholds such as Italy and Greece.

The rating places a country on a scale between 10 (maximum positive score) and -4 (maximum negative score) and is an average of total possible positive and negative points.

Positive points are awarded to a country whose laws safeguard against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, which recognise same-sex partnership, parenting rights of same-sex partners, and cover homophobia in hate speech/crime legislation.

The negative points are awarded to the countries with laws banning same-sex sexual acts, that have unequal age of consent, and violate the rights of LGBT people to peaceful assembly and freedom of association. With just one point, Malta is not at the bottom of the index since Poland, Latvia and Cyprus are considered to be the least tolerant, all obtaining a zero score, on a par with the Vatican City.

On the other side of the scale, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain (obtaining between nine and 10 points) are considered to be the most liberal countries in the EU, where same-sex marriages and the adoption of children by gay couples is permitted and recognised by the state.

"Although on paper many think we are becoming more tolerant, there is nothing to boast about, if Malta is still behind countries like Bulgaria and Romania when it comes to our basic human rights," Gaby Calleja, from the Malta Gay Rights Movement, said when contacted.

"We have been campaigning for years to be given our rights such as the enactment of important legislation when it comes to the acquisition of goods and services and the right of recognising same-sex cohabitation. However, despite the lip-service of the political parties we are still were we used to be years ago where legislation in involved," Ms Calleja said.

Currently, just four countries in the EU allow people of the same sex to marry. However, the majority of the member states have some sort of legislation recognising registered partnerships or cohabitation. Some are even allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. With regard to homosexuality toleration, the index shows that the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus is the only territory in the EU where homosexuality is against the law. This legislation, however, is rarely enforced.

Elsewhere in the world, gay people face the death penalty in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, the Islamist parts of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Uganda is also considering bringing in capital punishment for homosexual acts.

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