In March 2011 together with other 84 countries Malta signed a United Nations’ Human Rights Council joint declaration calling for an end to violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This reinforces the 2008 UN General Assembly Statement which for the first time inserted sexual orientation and gender identity in the UN interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishing that human rights apply equally to each human being.
It is good that the Maltese government was among the 85 who signed this statement endorsing the stand that human rights apply to all human beings but government has yet to transpose its values and principles into local laws. Government still deprives lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people of full human rights. When in parliament Labour suggested that the rent law should include changes that give rights to homosexual and trans partners to protect them from being thrown out when their partner died, government declined and was appalled at us for making this suggestion. When Labour had asked for the remit of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality to include safeguarding the rights of this minority, government at first said it was still too early to protect these persons from discrimination but finally agreed to this move. When a transgender person tried to get her rights to marry in court and the judge ruled in her favour and in line with the European Court of Human Rights, government appealed against the sentence. In December 2010, on behalf of the Malta Gay Rights’ Movement a private member’s bill about gender identity was presented by a Labour MP to extend human rights to transgender persons, but still there is no sign that it is going to be made into law.
Gay rights’ movements around the world have called on governments to embrace the contents of this declaration not simply by signing it but also by incorporating them in national policies and national law. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association has welcomed this statement of the UN Human Rights Council as a sign of the growing international, cross-regional consensus around the need to protect people persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Also to engage in a truly universal application of human rights: “The strength of this Statement makes the defence of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans and intersex people on the basis of a mistaken sense of “tradition” or “natural order” more untenable than ever. Homophobia and transphobia are more and more acknowledged for what they truly are: the last crumbling pillars of a patriarchal order which belong with other dark pages of our past, like slavery and the Inquisition.”