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NGOs call for ‘hate crime’ to also cover anti-gay acts

An attack on a 16-year-old lesbian yesterday provoked calls for the concept of gay hate crime to be included in Maltese laws.

Malta has yet to extend hate crime to include the grounds of homophobia

“In many countries, such an assault would be investigated as a hate crime but Malta has yet to extend hate crime legislation to include the grounds of homophobia and transphobia,” the Malta Gay Rights Movement and the human rights lobby Aditus said in a joint statement.

Their reaction, accompanied by that of hundreds of people on the internet, came after The Sunday Times reported on the attack in which the girl, pseudonymously named Amy, and her girlfriend were beaten in Ħamrun specifically because of their sexual orientation.

The petite teenager ended up at a health centre with a fractured nose, a grazed face and bruises on her breasts. Her girlfriend got away with a bruise to the head and scratches on her wrists which she sustained when pushed to the ground.

“Violence on lesbian, gay and tran­sexual people is not an uncommon occurrence although most incidents do not get reported to the police or featured in newspapers.

“Trust in the police force is an essential factor in encouraging and enabling LGBT victims to come forward and report such crimes. For this reason, how the police react to this assault also has an effect on the reporting of other similar incidents,” they said.

In fact, Amy’s mother told The Sunday Times that, although the police had spoken to the perpetrators, brothers aged about 17 and 19, they had not been arrested. Questions sent to the police on Thursday, asking whether they would be charg­ed, remained unanswered despite various reminders.

The incident provoked an immediate response online with a group set up on Facebook – The Amy Initiative – garnering more than 300 endorsements in less than six hours.

“Amy is a pseudonym used in the article but Amy could be anyone: your sister, cousin, brother, uncle. Homophobia is real in Malta. There is no excuse for it, don’t let it go ignored,” the group states under its information section.

The initiative is also calling for Maltese laws to include hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation.

The NGOs also expressed concern over allegations of harassment experienced by the victim at school when her sexual orientation became known.

They urged the Education Department of Educational Services to investigate the claims.

The Drachma Parents’ Group – a support group for relatives of LGBT people – called on the Maltese and the Christian community to take stronger action against homophobic remarks and stand up in defence of victims harassed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The support group urged the authorities and the police to stop this violence by ensuring justice and compensation, and the Curia to issue a strong statement “in the face of such un-Christian and aggressive behaviour and show that it is on the side of homosexuals, ‘who must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2358)”.

Alternattiva Demokratika, We Are, a university LGBT organ­isation, and the Nationalist Party’s youth group – MŻPN – also urged action.

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