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Society has to change mindset to eradicate homophobia - minister

Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Changing laws was not enough to eradicate homophobia but society also had to change its mindset, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said today.

“It helps to have the laws in place but people are still suffering,” he said during an event organised this afternoon by the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology against homophobic bullying.

There were people who had even contemplated suicide because of the bullying they had to endure.

The problem had to be tackled even at schools and Mr Bartolo said that co-education would help because it would bring together a range of personalities. “However, it was not enough.”

Mr Bartolo expressed regret that there were so few students taking part in the event. “One would have liked to see more students here instead of having a burger outside,” he said.

The problem of homophobic bullying had to be tackled at a deeper level. “We need to have a culture of celebrating diversity instead of tolerating,” he said.

Nationalist Party civil rights spokesman Claudette Baldacchino said she agreed with the minister’s comments and pointed out that it was not about legislation.

She called on students to be open and tolerant and recounted a personal experience where two of her closest friends felt comfortable to tell her they were gay.

“Deep down I knew they were gay but I felt that it was important for him and her to tell me that – I felt honoured to have two close friends who felt they could trust me,” she said.

It was important not to judge and to be open and “be aware that we are different. It is this difference that makes us equal,” Ms Baldacchino said.

Arnold Cassola, chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika, said the party had always been in favour of civil rights and civil unions.

“We need to work towards a richer society through different types of families,” he said.

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