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Lesbian attack ‘an opportunity’

US deputy assistant secretary, Daniel Baer, during yesterday’s web interview.

US deputy assistant secretary, Daniel Baer, during yesterday’s web interview.

The recent attack on two teenagers, who were targeted because of their sexual orientation, provides Malta’s leaders with the opportunity to condemn such violence, according to US human rights politician Daniel Baer.

When ministers talk, people below them listen

“Focusing on the legal aspect is important but there is a broader commitment... There is an opportunity for leaders to speak out and condemn violence against anyone and pass on the message that it will not be tolerated,” he said.

Dr Baer is the deputy assistant secretary of the US Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labour. He was replying to a question sent by The Times in a web interview for international journalists on human rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people

Dr Baer said the attack meant the government had to focus on better legal protection for gay people.

“One of the most important things is to get serious about investigating and redoubling efforts to investigate and prosecute such cases,” he said.

But there was also the political aspect through which the country’s leadersought to condemn such actions and fight discrimination, he said. “When ministers talk, people listen.”

The attack took place in Ħamrun on January 13 and two teenage boys are expected to be charged in court.

NGOs and organisations, including the Church, issued statements condemning the violence and calling for increased legal protection for gays.

A peaceful demonstration was also held at Ħamrun square where the attack took place. However, there was no official statement of condemnation from the government.

A Justice Ministry spokesman yesterday said that, “of course”, the government condemned all forms of violence. It was seeking to address the issue by expanding the definition of a hate crime to include homophobia and the amendment was being discussed in Parliament.

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