News | Sunday, 31 January 2010

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Ministers disappoint on gay rights concerns

The Malta Gay Rights Movement expressed its concern on the position expounded by outgoing Social Policy Minister John Dalli with regards to access to health for transgendered persons.
Dalli, who is to become European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, was questioned by Gabi Calleja, MGRM coordinator, at a public dialogue meeting at St Margaret College Boys Secondary.
Calleja asked Dalli what he was doing to ensure health services were truly accessible to all citizens, including transgender persons.
“Dalli replied that Maltese health services are non-discriminatory and available to young, old, women, men, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds alike. However, if someone wanted a nose job done and this was not on the list of services offered by the National Health Services, then this did not constitute discrimination,” Calleja said in a statement.
“In essence, the minister compared hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to a nose-job, a procedure often undertaken for purely personal aesthetics. This shows a huge lack of understanding on gender identity disorder on his part.”
Calleja said Dalli’s response was not in line with European Court of Human Rights rulings, which that where a health insurance plan covers “medically necessary” treatment, gender reassignment must be included.
MGRM representatives also attended the public dialogue meeting held by education minister Dolores Cristina where she was asked what was being done to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
“The minister’s response was unconvincing simply stating that bullying in schools happens for various reasons and affects groups other than gay people and referred to PSD lessons as a means of tackling this issue.
“This seems to indicate the lack of will to address the issue with the particular focus that it requires and indeed is afforded in many schools throughout Europe,” Calleja said.
Foreign Minister Tonio Borg was also asked what was being done on the incorrect transposition of the Freedom of Movement Directive for same-sex partners.
Under the Directive, the right to free movement primarily remains limited to a “spouse” and the children of either the spouse or the sponsor. Whether this includes same-sex spouses or not is not clearly defined.
“In his response the minister failed to acknowledge that the relevant clause in the Directive was incorrectly transposed. He emphasised that only third country nationals who are spouses had the right to enter Malta. This is in fact not in line with the spirit of the Directive, which states that EU countries should facilitate entry of third country nationals where a durable relationship can be duly attested such as through a civil partnership obtained in another EU country,” Calleja said.
Calleja said that while MGRM appreciates the opportunity to pose questions to leading politicians in such public fora, the exercise was “somewhat disappointing… It confirmed the lack of a serious commitment to equality demonstrated by the present government.”

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