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Updated: Amendments to hate crime legislation being moved on Monday

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

A number of amendments to various laws are to be moved in Parliament by Justice Minister Chris Said on Monday.

Addressing a news conference, the minister said he will be presenting amendments to the Civil Code to widen the description of an aggravated crime.

Currently crime is aggravated when it is the result of xenophobia. This will be expanded to include gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, ethnic origin, religion or belief or political or other opinion.

A revision of laws related to hate crime had been announced by the Prime Minister following two incidents thought to be homophobia related.

Dr Said said he had consulted with stake holders including MGRM before moving the proposal, which had also gone through the Attorney General and was approved by Cabinet.

Other amendments were being moved to a number of laws on disability.

An important one was that the curator of a mentally disabled person who has been interdicted will have to present an annual report to court and appear in front of the court each year for a decision on whether his position should be renewed to be taken. This was aimed at increasing accountability.

Another amendment was to the Equal Opportunities Act for the concept of discrimination to also include harassment.

Moreover, the burden of proof was being shifted from the disabled person to the company facing the accusation.

Through another amendment, an organisation representing disabled people would be able to take legal action on behalf of a member.

Other amendments are to the Social Security Act to increase the number of medical conditions eligible for free medicine by 40. The new conditions also include dementia. This has been approved and will come into effect on March 27.

Dr Said said that a new article will be included whereby the pension of civil servants or employees in government owned companies or where the government is a majority shareholder, born before January 1962 and who applied for early retirement or an invalidity pension after 2008, will be calculated on the best three years, salary wise, before retirement.

ADITUS WELCOMES AMENDMENTS

The amendments to broaden hate crime legislation were welcomed by the auditus foundation.

"The proposed amendments will extend current legislation to cover crimes based on homophobia, transphobia and other grounds such as disability.

“This is a clear statement condemning acts of violence committed out of discrimination against particularly vulnerable groups.

We are particularly happy to see the inclusion of gender identity as a protected ground, putting Malta at the forefront of recognising and tackling the difficult and often violent situations faced by transgender persons simply because they are perceived to be different,” director Neil Falzon said.

MORE ORGANISATIONS WELCOME AMENDMENTS

The amendments were also welcomed by the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Integra Foundation, Drachma, LGBT Labour and We Are.

"The enactment of such legislation sends a strong message that bias motivated crime is not acceptable in a society that aims to provide equal treatment to all its citizens and offers much needed protection to a wider range of vulnerable groups.

"We hope that this will also be accompanied by appropriate training to the police force with respect to the identification of hate crimes, accompanying measures aimed at reaching out to potential victims and adequate data collection of such crimes."


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