The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement would like to invite you to the Annual General Meeting 2020.
Date: Tuesday 24th March 2020
Time: 7:15 – 8:15pm
Venue: MGRM Office, 32, Parish Street Mosta
At the end of October 2019, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) launched an online questionnaire to obtain more knowledge about the experiences of people from the LGBTIQ community in Paceville, Malta’s entertainment and club Mecca.
The initiative to conduct this study was primarily instigated by media reports claiming that members of the LGBTIQ community were being treated unfairly, harassed or refused to be served because of their gender identity, sexual orientation or gender non-conforming appearance and/or behaviour. Furthermore, through its interaction within the LGBTIQ community, it is not uncommon for the members of the community to speak to members of MGRM of their negative experiences in Paceville.
MGRM has received 210 responses from the entire spectrum of the LGBTIQ Community. Based on those responses, we are making a series of five recommendations which are intended to improve the security not just of the members of the LGBTIQ community but also that of every patron who frequents Paceville.
Download the full report by clicking the link below.
Il-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) ilha għal dawn l-aħħar għoxrin sena taħdem għall-kisbiet ta’ diversi drittijiet ċivili, li ħafna minnhom inkisbu f’dawn l-aħħar snin. Fid-dawl tal-bidla fit-tmexxija tal-Partit Laburista u allura fil-pożizzjoni ta’ Prim Ministru, drittijiet bħall-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ, id-dritt li familja b’koppja tal-istess sess tkun tista’ taddotta, id-dritt li persuna tibdel il-ġeneru legali skont l-affermazzjoni tal-individwu, id-dritt għal trattament mediku għal persuni trans, u b’mod ġenerali l-ugwaljanza sħiħa quddiem il-liġi jafu jkunu mhedda.
Għaldaqstant, l-MGRM tat l-opportunità lill-Onorevoli Chris Fearne u Robert Abela bħala ż-żewġ kandidati għal din il-pożizzjoni sabiex jagħtu r-risposti tagħhom għal sett ta’ domandi komuni bejn it-tnejn.
Il-kandidati ġew mgħarrfa li r-risposti ser ikunu qed jiġu ppublikati fuq is-sit tagħna, kif ukoll fuq il-paġni tagħna fuq il-mezzi tal-media soċjali li nużaw.
Niżżel ir-rapport finali mill-link ta’ hawn taħt:
For the past twenty years, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) has worked hard for the achivement of several civil rights, most of which were achieved in the past few years. As a result of the change in leadership of the Partit Laburist, and therefore the position of Prime Minister, rights such as marriage equality, equality in adoption laws, the right to change name and legal gender, the right to treatement for trans people, and in a general sense, equality in the eyes of the law, could be threatened.
For this reason, MGRM invited the Hon. Chris Fearne and the Hon. Robert Abela, as the two candidates for this position to set the record straight, and answer an identical set of questions related to the above.
The two candidates were made aware that their responses were going to be published on our website as well as on our social media pages.
We would like to note that both the questions and the answers were made in Maltese. Although the responses were professionally translated into English, please refer to the original language in case of any ambiguity.
Download the final report from the link below.
2019 was a strong year for HIV activists in Malta, and for World AIDs Day on Sunday, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement took to Tigne Point to reiterate their stance in the fight against stigma.
The newly-elected committee decided to revive their commitment of ensuring that human rights apply equally to everyone, with its statute making specific mention of safeguarding the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Mark Josef Rapa, founder of the group PrEPingMalta has been advocating for access to PrEP, a preventative treatment which when taken daily stops the transmission of HIV by more than 99%, also covered the issues that arise from the virus itself and the stigma surrounding it in his column in the Independent.
PrEP has also led to a significant drop in HIV rates across a number of European cities, while Malta saw a rise of over 50% in 2018 and a reported 400 people being treated for the virus in hospitals around the island.
Following calls for easier access, PrEP finally became available for purchase in local pharmacies earlier this year. Until that point, people wanting to protect themselves had to buy the medication online. Name one other medication you’d be willing to buy off the internet, we’ll wait.
The launch was accompanied by a new website. The first of its kind in Malta, the site has since accumulated over 3,000 page views. Two of the most popular pages explain how to buy and use PrEP and a breakdown of how to cope with daily life post-diagnosis.
An interesting point to note is that while many groups have been campaigning for the public to increase their efforts in testing their sexual health regularly, the page on the site that details how to get tested is still only the third most popular.
While activism has been strengthening on the side of breaking stigma, 2019 still remains a poor year in regards to the collective health awareness of the country.
Statistics do indicate that people want to know their status, they want to protect themselves. As for those who are HIV+ still wishing for equal treatment, there is still a ways to go. The fight continues to align Malta’s HIV medical care with that of the rest of the continent.
Joe Grima, a representative within MGRM, said of the work the group has done so far:
“We can no longer accept that treatment which is no longer recommended by the European AIDS Clinical Society and World Health Organization is given out. February 2019 saw a missed opportunity with the launch of a flawed Request for Proposal (RFP) which indicated privatising HIV-related care.”
It is still unknown as to whether or not the RFP is still being considered, though expectations for a relaunch late this year still stand. MGRM and HIV Malta stress the urgency of this consideration, stating that unless the RFP includes PrEP trials, it is likely to fall behind as another missed opportunity.
Until then, the people march on. Through the Rainbow Support Services, MGRM and HIV Malta continue to provide free support to those affected by HIV and other members of queer communities.
The new year will see the launch of peer groups and buddy systems for people living with HIV. Support groups, together with constant dialogue with health professionals and policymakers, will continue to ensure that everyone is afforded the same dignity and standards worthy of a citizen of a modern European state in 2020.
Source: Lovin Malta
When professional dancer Chakib Zidi landed in Malta in August 2017 as part of a European tour, he had no idea he would not be able to leave.
The 29-year-old is gay, something that is deemed illegal in his home country of Tunisia and is punishable by up to three years in jail.
He is among an undisclosed number of people seeking asylum under Malta’s Refugees Act based on fears their sexuality would result in degrading treatment or punishment in their country of origin.
“While I was working in Malta two years ago, I received an urgent message from my sister and lawyer via Facebook that my house in the Medina area of Tunis was being raided by the police,” he said.
“They also told me that my coffee shop was being searched. The police were looking for proof that I was gay. If I return, I could be arrested or forced to undergo a gay ‘test’ which involves an anal probe. So, I’ve had to seek asylum here in Malta.”
Since then, Chakib has been trying to find out if he will receive international protection.
He and his partner, theatre director Mohamad Ali ‘Dali’ Agrebi, who is also from Tunisia, live in Fgura with their dog Bobby. They are among a growing group of asylum seekers who are choosing to live openly gay.
“We are very happy here but are still living in a kind of limbo,” continues Chakib.
“Dali got his visa six months ago, but I am still waiting to receive international protection. This means I can’t travel, get a driver’s licence or even open a bank account. I feel a bit trapped as I can’t visit my family or friends. It also holds me back when it comes to accepting work abroad as a dancer or choreographer as I can’t leave.”
While Malta ranks first place in the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) index as Europe’s best country for LGBTQ+ law and policy, life is more difficult if you are a migrant or refugee.
According to the latest information from the European Fundamental Rights Agency, many gay people who are discriminated against for their ethnic origin or religion don’t bother reporting violence or hate speech.
“I am gay. This is who I am,” says Chakib.
“Yes, I wish I was born heterosexual but there is nothing I can do about that. It’s not my fault. I feel betrayed by my country but all I can do is hope that I can get official status soon so that I can move forward with my life.”
In Tunisia, human rights campaigners have called for an end to the criminalisation of same-sex conduct and forced anal examinations, but so far nothing has changed. I wish I was born heterosexual but there is nothing I can do about that
Despite this, Chakib and Dali feel they are among the lucky members of Malta’s migrant and asylum-seeking gay community. For this reason, they are working closely with Malta’s LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) in Mosta to help those struggling.
“It has shocked me to hear what some people have gone through since arriving in Malta,” says Chakib.
“One man – who was living in Ħal Far – says he felt very threatened there. He had no idea it was legal to be gay here and thought it only happened in places like the US. When he came out with us to places like Paceville, he couldn’t believe the bouncers allowed him into clubs when he was with us, because when he tried before he was turned away as he was black.
“We took him with us to gay events such as Pride and Lollipop and he was so happy.”
Dali, 26, says there is not enough help for vulnerable gay people who end up in Malta.
“We hope to set up a space just for migrants and plan to meet so people can be informed about the rights and laws they have here, as well as sexual and mental health services because they vary from country to country,” he said.
Alex Caruana, who works as a Community Outreach Officer, also at MGRM, agrees with Dali.
He says that some gay migrants face the double challenge of not being accepted because of the colour of their skin and sexuality.
“Often a person’s experience depends on the social-economic class they fall into, within Malta.
“For example, if you are in the arts community you might be OK. But if you are a gay, poor, black man working on a construction site, you are probably going to have a harder time,” he said.
Trying to find out exactly how many people are seeking asylum in Malta because they are gay is difficult – but this is something Dali feels also needs to change.
“It’s so hard to get the numbers and, when we ask, we are told it’s confidential. But if we knew more facts, I think it would be easier for us to know who we should reach out to and help,” he said.
Source: Times of Malta
One of the first websites which pops up on one’s web searcher when looking up “Gay rights in Malta” is the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, better known as MGRM. For the past 18 years MGRM has been behind the biggest LGBTQ+ achievements on the local scene, and although the NGO is still in its teen years, it has seen many battles, losses and achievements; from the launch of the first National Gay Helpline, the first Pride March in 2004 and in most recent years Marriage Equality. COLETTE FARRUGIA BENNETT is one of the first committee members of MGRM and till this day is working towards educating society on issues and challenges the LGBTQ+ community face, in hope to make life easier not just for the community but everyone else.
COLETTE FARRUGIA BENNETT
We were scared no one would show up: 2004 first Malta Pride
Today, Pride March is celebrated among thousands – people from the LGBTQ+ community, allies, politicians and activists all come together to march for the political reasons and party to celebrate the achievements of the community. Yet, it was not always this way. Colette reflects back to when the MGRM committee first started thinking about hosting a Pride March in Malta. “Back in 2001, Pride March was a big thing abroad, but we were not sure whether the Maltese society was ready for a public demonstration of homosexuality!” She explained that in 2002 and 2003, while there was no Pride March, MGRM organised Diversity Week, a number of events to bring people together and promote more awareness on the community. “We were a group of people with a lot of energy and very little experience but were good fun. We had also organised a ShOUT festival, which was an open air performance on stage with a variety of performances.”ADVERTISEMENT
In 2004, Colette and other committee members decided to plan the first Pride March. “We put up posters around Malta in the middle of the night! I remember on the day there were quite a few police, as they did not know what to expect on the day; both from our side and the public.” She explained that they initially wanted to make a statement; apart from carrying a rainbow flag made out of balloons they also marched with a banner which read Gay Rights equals Human Rights. Collette remembered feeling anxious and nervous on the day, not knowing what to expect from society.
“There were important people there who put their face out and stood by us, Minister Evarist Bartolo, Louise Galea, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Alternattiva Demokratika and Moviment Graffiti. There were more allies than the LGBT community itself and at times that was the running joke for the first few Pride marches. It was a frustrating feeling, although you would invite other LGBTQ+ people they would come up with an excuse, it was frustrating to always put your face out there and very few would follow us. Today the situation is very different and Pride is a much bigger event, yet at times it has become more commercial, which can at times be problematic when highlighting the issues we are fighting for.” She explained that the political message of Pride needs to remain present, that although Malta has advanced in laws and has become more accepting in the past few years, there are a number of countries where it is still a criminal offence to be homosexual and transgender.
“Our message for Pride would be to continue educating society and raising awareness; making life easier for those people facing a challenge with homophobia and transphobia. Secondly, we want to raise awareness of HIV transmissions and the importance of medical and psychological care for those people living with HIV. The reality of living with HIV is very different to what it was in the 90s but it is still important to understand the transmission of HIV and STI’s.”
MGRM has helped me become an activist who is always keen to learn more about people
Collette joined MGRM in 2001, when she was still a first year student at University reading a degree in social work. She remembers that before joining the NGO she recalls the birth of another organisation, Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Movement. “I remember sitting in front of the TV watching the press conference and thinking finally people are coming together to speak about the LGBTQ+ movement!” Although the group was short-lived, some members came together to create MGRM.
“I started volunteering and I became part of this organisation. Before MGRM, my life was very different. I was a passive teenager who wasn’t involved in activism. Joining MGRM and volunteering in the national Gay helpline, I became more active and keen on learning more about the situation both on a local scale and also on what is happening abroad. Nowadays this information is my bread and butter and the knowledge is ingrained in me now.” She explained that she feels privileged to have learnt so much about the community and to have had the chance to travel and learn more by attending numerous forums, trainings and conferences.
She explained that her own studies and research also looked into the LGBTQ+ community. Her first dissertation was about the visibility of bisexuals and lesbians in terms of how social workers view such populations and she explained that the eight-year gap between her first dissertation and her masters shows that there was an improvement in the attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in society. “Over the years, many people have come to the MGRM offices to seek out support. We have seen so many people sit in this counselling space, young people telling us that their parents have been abusive or unsupportive. Now, the situation has changed; not that we do not have these people seeking support, but now we have parents seeking advice on how to support their son or daughter who just came out. They come to us for support and a safe place to discuss what they are feeling.” She said that while society has changed drastically, there are still many other changes to be done. There is still homophobia and transphobia which is still being worked on. Yet there is hope for the future. “We have had information sessions with Education Minister Evarist Bartolo and trans young people, alongside numerous meetings with schools from different backgrounds to highlight more awareness on LGBTQ+ youths. We also had the opportunity to train the psycho-social teams of Catholic schools; we don’t expect people to become experts but to know that if someone out there needs more support outside of the schools, we are here.”
Pride is showing solidarity among one another regardless of our gender and sexual orientation
Colette explained that the meaning of Pride goes way back to 2004; although times have changed, they still march for the same reasons. “We wanted to be heard, counted and considered as equal citizens. As much as equality has improved, there are still inequalities and injustices taking place. Yes, we should celebrate, celebrate diversity, complement one another and come together regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Source: Malta Independent
Gay men will be allowed to donate blood as of next week, with a blanket ban on blood donation for men who have sexual relationships with other men (MSM) being lifted.
The ban was lifted after the National Blood Transfusion Service acquired advanced testing equipment.
Last year around 17,000 people visited the Blood Donation Unit and gave their blood, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Wednesday.
That number is expected to rise now that the specialised equipment will allow for Nucleic Acid Testing.
This type of testing will allow testers to identify HIV and other viruses in the blood earlier, as it tests for genetic material rather than antigens or antibodies.
A spokesman for the National Blood Transfusion Service said that restrictions for MSM had been eased and that gay men would be able to donate blood after abstaining from sex for one year.
Dr Fearne said despite launching with an initial one-year deferral period, this may eventually be trimmed down to four months after epidemiological results from the new NAT testing are verified.
In reaction, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) welcomed the news that gay men would now be able to donate blood. They however noted that the announcement coincided conveniently close to ongoing Pride Week celebrations.
MGRM has insisted that, given the effectiveness of modern testing equipment, it is no longer reasonable to require long periods of abstinence from people, especially those in monogamous relationships, to be able to donate blood.
The NGO said that it has always been open to dialogue in order to better contribute to matters of sexual health as well in the noble gesture of donating blood.
Source: Times of Malta
MGRM Launches HIV Malta Campaign with a Three-Year Action Plan
The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) has today launched its new HIV Malta campaign and website www.HIVMalta.com. HIV Malta’s objectives are to destigmatise HIV, start a conversation on the subject by making information easily accessible, promote the importance of mental wellbeing, and ensure that there is an ongoing commitment to make newly developed HIV medication including that which is preventive, available without any further delay.
Given the significant global improvement in the understanding of the virus and new antiretrovirals (ARVs) with less side effects, individuals living with HIV can now expect to live a normal healthy life. Research endorsed by WHO and the CDC shows that effective treatment suppresses the viral load making the virus undetectable and therefore untransmittable (Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U). This can only be achieved through rapid and unobstructed access to modern medicine and treatment, with the best results seen in those countries where treatment has been reduced from 5-6 a day to a single tablet a day.
The single-tablet treatment regimen is still not available in Malta. Some of the drugs currently being administered have even, for long, been struck off from international medical guidelines (EACS and WHO). Like other stakeholders, MGRM remains in the dark with respect to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for improved treatment launched in February 2019, and although imminent news is expected about new treatment, to date, there has been no consultation with us stakeholders. It also remains unclear whether additional services listed in the RFP would eventually lead to partial or total privatisation of HIV-related care which is very much a public matter. Questions on whether this would require sharing of data also remained unanswered.
Similarly, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill which reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by over 99%, remains not affordable for the most members of society and might therefore not be accessible by those who would mostly benefit from it. Although this is a marked improvement over the previous situation where PrEP was not available locally, we cannot help but comment on the fact that the same generic treatment sold in Malta at a price of EUR 57, is available for purchase online, and in several other European countries, at around half the price.
Even more shockingly, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), an emergency treatment administered after possible exposure to HIV, provided solely at Mater Dei comes at EUR 600, notwithstanding the continuous and repeated appeals to make it free. Individuals who are unable to afford paying this unreasonable price are turned away. This irresponsible approach to preventative treatment comes at the expense of avoidable HIV diagnosis, and the financial cost of a lifetime of care and treatment.
Against this background, MGRM will be announcing several projects, including a new messaging campaign on dating apps, and other specific projects within different sectors of the community. HIV Malta aims to work in tandem with other NGOs and stakeholders including PrEPingMalta, the Allied Rainbow Communities and the newly set-up Checkpoint Malta to bring this plan to fruition.
Furthermore, the Rainbow Support Services which is now in its sixth year, remains committed to enhancing the quality of life of LGBTIQ individuals including those living with HIV, through the provision of information, consultation and psycho-social welfare services.
MGRM – HIV Malta
Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement
Malta should intervene and offer a safe port of disembarkation to migrants currently stranded on board NGO-operated rescue vessels, 23 NGOs said on Friday.
Some 350 migrants are currently waiting on board the Ocean Viking rescue vessel, which is operated by Doctors Without Borders and the NGO SOS Mediterranee, after having been rescued earlier in the week.
“As Malta swelters in the summer heat, over 350 men, women and children are out at sea, stranded aboard rescue vessels waiting to be allowed to land,” the NGOs said.
They added that despite repeated requests to Italy and Malta for a safe port, to date neither member state has allowed disembarkation and none of the member states of the EU have stepped in to offer refuge to those on board.
“As days turn into weeks and EU member states continue to drag their feet, conditions on board the two ships worsen and people’s life and safety are compromised.”
The NGOs said that “in the face of this callous disregard for human life” they were urging Malta to “once again lead by example and to allow the people stranded on board the rescue vessels to disembark in Malta.
This should be done irrespective of whether Malta was legally responsible for their disembarkation in terms of international law.
At 1pm on August 12, Antonin, @SOSMedIntl rescuer, was on bridge watch onboard the #OceanViking when he spotted a blurred shape on the horizon. It turned out it was a rubber boat about to deflate with 105 people on it.
On board now, 356 survivors waiting for a place of safety.
They said it was unacceptable to argue that the migrants should be returned to Libya, where they risk imprisonment in inhuman conditions, torture, rape and slavery. “Libya cannot be considered a safe port by any definition, so it is imperative that another solution is found for the rescued migrants.”
“It is equally objectionable to imply that any state is somehow justified in refusing to allow the disembarkation of people rescued by NGOs. International maritime law is clear: the priority is to save lives and to ensure disembarkation in a place of safety, regardless of who conducted the rescue. Saving lives is therefore a legal obligation, and under no circumstances can it be considered wrong or – at worst – a crime,” the NGOs said.
member states, have a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution, the NGO said, adding that Europe closing its doors to such people was “beyond reprehensible”.
The Ocean Viking was situated to the north-west of Malta on Friday afternoon
Finally, they added that it was clear that countries like Malta, Italy and Greece could not and should not be left to deal with this “European challenge” alone.
Furthermore, it is amply clear that the member states at the external borders of Europe, like Malta, Italy and Greece, cannot and should not be left to deal with this European challenge alone.
European Union institutions and member states, the NGOs said, need to take collective responsibility for the “tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep” and to take concrete steps to ensure that, wherever they are disembarked, people are received in conditions of dignity.
The NGOs that signed the statement are:
aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Caritas Malta, The Critical Institute, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents Group, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service, Kopin, LGBTI+ Gozo, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Maltese Association of Psychiatry, Men Against Violence, MGRM-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Moviment Graffitti, OASI Foundation, Office of the Dean – Faculty of Education University of Malta, People for Change Foundation, Richmond Foundation, SOS Malta, SPARK 15.
Source: Malta Today
Gay men will only be allowed to donate blood if they abstain from sex for at least one year prior – and authorities have yet to say when blood donations from gay donors will be allowed.
Following reports that men who have sex with men (MSM) would be able to give blood by the end of summer, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry told Times of Malta “final preparations” were under way but did not specify a date by when the system is expected to be functioning. Similar announcements were made in August last year, this January and again in April.
The spokeswoman did not specify either whether the one-year deferral period would distinguish between MSM who have had multiple partners or those in monogamous relationships. They only said that the deferral period would be reviewed periodically.
“There are various factors to consider when deferral criteria for any situation are applied,” the spokeswoman said.
Deferral periods for MSM vary from country to country. In Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia, among others, no deferral policies are in place. Instead, individual sexual risk evaluations are carried out, followed by testing.
In the UK and Canada, the deferral period is set at three months.
Denmark is expected to lift its ban on MSM blood donations and set the deferral period to three months. France will be cutting the deferral period from one year to four months.
Other countries, such as the USA, Finland and Sweden, have one-year deferral periods in place.
LGBTIQ activists welcomed the news that gay men would be allowed to donate blood.
However, they said that continuous sexual health awareness was critical and that better resources should be allocated to the GU clinic to allow conscientious people to assume responsibility for their sexual health before considering donating blood.
A spokesman for the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) said that, given the effectiveness of modern testing equipment, the prohibition of MSM from blood donation had not been justified for some years.
“It is especially discriminatory to exclude those in a monogamous relationship, regardless of their sexuality, from being able to participate in the noble act of donating blood, potentially saving lives,” he commented.
Clayton Mercieca, community manager at Allied Rainbow Communities (Arc), said that while the rule change would allow MSM to donate blood, it did not represent and change in mindset and continued to feed into a stereotype about gay men that was resulting in ignorant and homophobic attitudes.
“We still are considered high risk, whether we engage in high-risk sexual activity or not,” Mr Mercieca told Times of Malta.
“It would be wiser to invest in more education and awareness about STIs and how they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation,” he said.
Both organisations shared their concerns about the situation at the GU clinic, which, they noted, was understaffed and where appointments for testing were being given with a waiting time of up to two months in some instances.
Source: Times of Malta