Category: International News

Malta Becomes First European Nation To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

The practice is now deemed a “deceptive and harmful” act.

Malta has made history.

The island nation has become the first country in Europe to ban gay conversion therapy.

On Dec. 5, the Maltese parliament approved the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Bill, which criminalizes so-called “gay cure” therapy as a “deceptive and harmful” act.

The bill defines the practice as any “which aims to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

It also affirms that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort.”

Counselors, therapists or religious leaders prescribing or advertising the therapy will be fined between €1,000 and €5,000 (roughly $1,075 to $5,377 USD) or receive five months in jail, Malta Today reports.

Catholicism is the official religion of Malta and the religion plays a major role in the passage of the country’s laws. For instance, the country didn’t legalize divorce until 2011.  

In 2013, however, voters brought a social democratic government, the Labor Party, to power. The party is liberal, enabling the government to pass more progressive laws.

In 2014, Maltese parliament approved a bill that grants marriage rights to LGBTQ couples, including the possibility to adopt children.

A spokesperson from the Malta Chamber of Psychologists, which played a part in drafting the recently passed bill, told Malta Today that it is proud of its role in helping to outlaw a practice it considers inhumane.

“As a body we promote respect and equality for all persons, and are determined to continue working towards ensuring our clients can enjoy as safe a therapeutic experience as they deserve.”

In the same session, Parliament also passed amendments to the country’s Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act. The changes made will now allow anyone who is 16 years or older to have their gender legally changed without parental approval or having to file an application in court.


Five Major Gains for LGBTQ Rights in 2016

From bathrooms and beauty pageants to diplomatic disputes and Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential victory, 2016 was a turbulent year for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people worldwide.

Gay and transgender rights took more prominence than ever in the global media spotlight after several high-profile legal battles, and celebrity and cultural endorsements.

Yet LGBTQ people worldwide still face discrimination in many aspects of life such as employment, education and health care, and are subjected to widespread violence, advocates say.

However, gay and transgender rights groups are being increasingly backed, and are fighting to change policies and laws to protect LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination.

Here are five of the biggest gains for LGBTQ rights in 2016:


The United Nations in September appointed its first LGBTQ rights independent investigator to help protect sexual and gender minorities worldwide from violence and discrimination.

Vitit Muntarbhorn’s three-year role was created by the U.N. Human Rights Council amid objections by Muslim countries, and several African states who sought to have his work suspended.

Yet Muntarbhorn told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that even those countries perceived as the most virulent opponents of LGBTQ rights may in fact have pockets of openness and tolerance.

RELATED: United Nations Narrowly Votes to Keep LGBTQ Envoy

Muntarbhorn, an international law professor who has served on many U.N. bodies, including inquiries on Syria and as a special rapporteur on North Korea, also said he does not see his task in terms of how many people he might represent worldwide.

“One person might be affected 10, 20, 100 times … bullied at a young age, can’t go to toilet, laughed at, tortured, ultimately killed and defamed at the same time,” Muntarbhorn said. “How many violations can you count?”


Malta became the first country in Europe to ban conversion therapy, a much-criticized and discredited practice that aims to change sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The southern Mediterranean island nation criminalized conversion practices — often referred to as “gay cure” therapies — with its parliament calling it a “deceptive and harmful act”.

Those who prescribe or perform the therapy can be punished with fines of up to 10,000 euros ($10,400) and one year in jail.

Malta is widely considered as one of the most progressive nations in Europe when it comes to LGBTQ rights, having made a raft of legal and social changes in recent years.

It has introduced LGBTQ-inclusive education, passed same-sex civil unions and allowed transgender people to change their legal gender without any medical or state intervention.

Conversion therapy is still legal in most countries worldwide, but has been banned in several American states.


Entertainers such as Bruce Springsteen and companies ranging from PayPal to Deutsche Bank have pulled events and jobs from North Carolina to protest a law restricting bathroom access for transgender people in government buildings and public schools.

North Carolina in March became the only state in the country to require transgender people to use state-owned public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

Transgender rights have become an increasingly divisive issue in the United States, and the use of public bathrooms has been a flashpoint in the controversy over the past year.

Republican lawmakers cited privacy and security concerns when they passed the law, but critics say the bill, which also blocks local measures protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, is stigmatizing, insulting and unconstitutional.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory earlier this month conceded the state’s contested gubernatorial race to Democrat Roy Cooper, four weeks after the Nov. 8 election that many saw as a referendum on the transgender bathroom law.


Belize’s Supreme Court in September ruled that a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional, in a judgment LGBTQ activists say will boost efforts to abolish anti-gay laws in other former British colonies in the Caribbean.

The law, which punished gay sex with up to 10 years in prison, was scrapped after years of advocacy by the gay rights activist Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement.

RELATED: Belize Supreme Court Overturns Anti-Gay Law

Belize became the third country to decriminalize gay sex in 2016, along with the South Pacific island of Nauru and the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago, according to the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign.

Yet it remains illegal in more than 70 countries worldwide, most of which are former British colonies, the gay rights group said.


From the first openly lesbian Miss America contestant and Israel’s inaugural transgender beauty pageant to Emmy awards for the hit transgender TV series “Transparent”, the entertainment industry is shining a bigger spotlight on LGBTQ stars and issues.

The popularity of shows in recent years like “Orange Is the New Black” and movies such as “The Danish Girl”, which feature transgender stars or focus on issues facing gay and transgender people, have seen LGBTQ rights become mainstream in the media.

Yet this success comes amid controversy within the LGBTQ community over how transgender people are portrayed, and over the casting of straight men and women in transgender roles.

“I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female,” actor Jeffrey Tambour said in September in his acceptance speech after winning an Emmy for his portrayal of transgender woman Moiré Pfeiffer in “Transparent.”


Malta Outlaws ‘Conversion Therapy,’ a First in Europe

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta has become the first European country to criminalize therapeutic methods that purport to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, the government and activist groups said.

That measure was one aspect of far-reaching legislation approved by Parliament on Monday that also includes provisions that support transgender rights. In a statement, the government said the two bills “prohibit the pathologization of any sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

The first bill focused on so-called conversion therapy, a discredited collection of quasi-psychoanalytic methods that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is also sometimes known as “reparative therapy” or, when religious methods are used, “ex-gay ministry.”

Conversion therapy has been increasingly in the spotlight in the weeks since Donald J. Trump won the United States presidential election because of speculation that his running mate, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, supports the practice. Mr. Pence has denied that is the case.

In Malta, the new law imposes fines and jail terms “on those advertising, offering, performing or referring an individual to another person which performs” any practice “which aims to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” It said “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort.”

Malta Today, a local media organization, reported that violators would face fines as high as $5,383 or five months in jail.You have 2 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times

The second act focused on gender identity and the rights of transgender people.

It lowered the age at which people can change their gender on government documents without the consent of a parent or guardian to 16 from 18.

The measure also allows what the government called “non-Maltese individuals who are currently detained in gender segregated facilities” to secure an affidavit attesting to their gender identity which can then be used to request housing that accords with that identity instead of the gender on their birth certificate.

Malta is the smallest European Union member state by population, with just over 420,000 people, and it has been praised for its record on gay and transgender rights before.

In a report issued in May, the European arm of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association called the country, which lies in the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya, the most gay-friendly in Europe.

“With the adoption of these bills Malta continues to be at the forefront of trans rights in Europe,” Transgender Europe, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

Graeme Reid, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said he believed Malta was the first European country to enact a ban on conversion therapy, although he said others regulate the practice through other means, including professional medical associations.

“Any psychiatric treatment that sets out to change sexual orientation or gender identity is not only wrongheaded, but harmful,” he said.

Both measures were supported by a range of mental health organizations in Malta, including the Malta Chamber of Psychologists and the Maltese Association of Psychiatry.

In a statement, the groups said they were “very proud to have played an integral part in the drafting of this bill, which openly disapproves of practices which are harmful to people in our community.”


Malta becomes first European country to ban ‘gay cure’ therapy

Under new law anyone found guilty of trying to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation faces fine or jail

Malta has become the first country in Europe to ban gay conversion therapy after the parliament in Valetta unanimously approved a bill outlawing attempts to “cure” homosexuals of their sexuality.

Under the new Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act, anyone found guilty of trying to “change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression” will face fines or a jail sentence.

Practising medical professionals who prescribe “gay cure” therapies could face fines of up to €10,000 (£8510) and a jail term of up to a year, with lesser fines of €1,000 to €5,000 and shorter sentences available to judges in other cases, Malta Today reported.

The Mediterranean island nation has launched a number of progressive social reforms since its Labour government was elected in 2013, and has twice been named the European country that best respects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people by the advocacy group ILGA-Europe.

The new law also decrees that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”, and lowers to 16 the age at which people can request a change in gender without their parents’ approval. 

Supporters of gay conversion therapy argue it uses common psychological or counselling techniques to help people voluntarily change their sexual orientation, but the practice is widely condemned. 

In Britain, the NHS, Royal College of Psychiatrists and all leading counselling and psychotherapy bodies have signed a joint statement describing it as unethical, unscientific and potentially dangerous. 

According to the LGBT rights group Stonewall, a 2009 survey of 1,300 mental health professionals in the UK found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy to patients referred to them by GPs and NHS practices.

In the US, where the practice is banned on minors in several states, the American Psychiatric Association has said it opposes any treatment “based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or … that a patient should change his/her homosexual orientation”.

Professional bodies representing Malta’s psychologists, psychiatrists, family therapists and counsellors welcomed the bill barring what they called an “inhumane” practice, saying in a joint statement that they were “very proud to have played an integral part” in drafting it. 

Gay conversion therapy “not only rejects a group of individuals on the basis of unfounded prejudice and lack of tolerance for diversity, but also impinges on the international recognition of LGBTIQ rights”, the associations added.

“As a body we promote respect and equality for all persons, and are determined to continue working towards ensuring our clients can enjoy as safe a therapeutic experience as they deserve,” their statement said.


Malta bans ‘gay cure’ conversion therapy

Malta has become the first European country to ban gay conversion therapy.

The bill against the practice, which aims to “cure” a non-heterosexual person of their sexuality, was voted through unanimously. 

Under the new law, anyone who tries to “change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression” will be fined or even jailed.

Professionals will face heftier fines of up to 10,000 euros (£8,450/$10,700).

They could also be jailed for up to a year, according to Malta Today.

The bill also enshrines in law that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”.

Malta was named the best European country for LGBT rights by advocacy group ILGA-Europe in 2015. 


Gay conversion therapy has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years, but remains more popular in the US than in Europe.

Its supporters claim it uses standard psycho-therapeutic and counselling techniques so people can change or reduce their “homosexual tendencies” of their own free will.

But the World Psychiatric Association has denounced the practice as unethical, unscientific and harmful to those who undergo it.

Two years ago, NHS England and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – along with 12 other organisations in the UK – signed an agreement which called it “potentially harmful and unethical”.

It has also been banned on minors in several places in the US, including California and Illinois.


MPs criminalise gay conversion therapy, minister hails public support against transphobia

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli praises public outcry and reaction to online attack on transgender activist Alex Caruana by Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin exponent Stephen Florian

The public’s reaction to the recent online attack by Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin exponent and university lecturer Stephen Florian on transgender activist Alex Caruana was to be lauded, according to Helena Dalli, minister for social dialogue and civil liberties.

Dalli, who was speaking in parliament in the second reading on the affirmation of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression bill, said that she and many other MPs had immediately condemned Florian’s attack, but insisted she had been pleased that the public’s reaction was equally critical.

The bill discussed establishes that gender identity issues and sexual orientation were not induced by any sort of mental illness and makes conversion therapy illegal.

Dalli said that the government’s work and commitment to eliminate bias and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was leaving a very positive impact in the daily lives of many families and their families.

She said it was parliament’s duty to discuss such bills and to do all it could to eliminate prejudice.

“No one has control over how they are born, and it is not right that some people suffer discrimination, bullying and other forms of intimidation because of how they were born,” she said.

Dalli said that the discrimination and harassment sometimes led to suicide.

“It is noteworthy that the suicide rate in the LGBTIQ community is about eight times higher than in the rest of the community, and that is indicative of what these people have to go through,” she said.

Health minister Chris Fearne praised the bill for putting Malta ahead of many other countries in illegalising conversion therapy but suggested that the recognised age of ‘vulnerable individuals’ as referred to in the bill, be reduced to 16 from 18.

Government whip Godfrey Farrugia noted that the bill criminalised all therapies in the field and suggested that a closer look at the wording might be called for as some beneficial medical therapies should not be confused with conversion, or repairative, therapy.

Opposition spokesman Clyde Puli and MP Karl Gouder said that the bill would officially confirm that being homosexual, or other sexual orientation, was not something to be ashamed or punished for.

The second reading of the bill was approved by both sides of the house.


Malta rapidly expands progressive LGBTIQ laws but society struggles to keep up

Malta is ranked as one of the most progressive countries in the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and genderqueer (LGBTIQ) rights, and the Maltese Government is continuing to push ahead on the issue.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.AUDIO: Listen to Connie Agius’ report (AM)

Key points:

  • Malta has established a two-year action plan to extend IVF to same-sex couples
  • Civil Union Act recognises same-sex marriage as well as adoption and parenting rights
  • 95 per cent of Malta’s population is Catholic and the church has a difficult relationship with the LGBTQI community

But despite the progressive political momentum, the church and conservative pockets of society are still struggling to accept the change.

In the last two years, Malta has enacted the Civil Union Act, which granted recognition at par with marriage, as well as adoption and parenting rights for same-sex couples.

It introduced constitutional protection against discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that protection extends to refugees.

Malta also passed the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act, which recognises and protects a person’s gender identity and their right to change it.

And more recently, the Government’s Consultative Council established a two-year action plan that will extend IVF to same-sex couples.

“As far as legislation goes, we actually rank at the top, literally first place in Europe, and that’s mainly because we have good partnership legislation, which includes parenting rights,” said Gabi Calleja from Malta LGBTIQ Movement.

“We have the best gender identity legislation, which also includes intersex rights, we have anti-discrimination legislation in employment, anti-discrimination at constitutional level.”

Malta’s legislation has moved forward to protect the LGBTIQ community, but the church has a complicated relationship with the LGBTQI community.

Around 95 per cent of the population is Catholic, and the church has historically played a significant role in influencing Maltese politics and a conservative society.

PHOTO: The Catholic Church in Malta is divided on the issue of LGBTIQ rights. (Connie Agius/ABC)

Divorce was only introduced in 2011, despite the Church’s vocal opposition, and it stands against many issues related to reproduction.

“The church is not present, it’s everywhere,” Mr Calleja said.

“It runs one third of our schools, a bit more than now.

“It runs a lot of our social care institutions and provides welfare services.

“About 50 per cent of the Maltese population still attend mass every Sunday, so it’s quite a force.

“I think their political power, its strength is waning a bit since the divorce referendum, but it’s still there.”

LGBTIQ community still held back on some issues

Christopher Vella is from Drachma, a local NGO dedicated to sexual and religious integration, and a member of the steering committee for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

“At first they were cautious, and slow to do anything for the LGBTIQ community,” he said.

“It’s one of our objectives to create dialogue with the church. They have reacted quite positively to that, but views are still quite mixed.”

Mark Josef Rapa from We Are, an LGBTIQ organisation that works with Maltese youth, said the laws themselves were not enough.

“People need to be informed about these laws, how they can use them and how these laws affect them,” Mr Rapa said.

“I think people have caught up with the idea that a gay couple can get married.

“They haven’t been comfortable with gay adoption yet.

“We recently tried to introduce LGBT books in schools, which unfortunately received a negative reaction from parents and they had to be withdrawn.”


LGBTI report: Malta climbs to third place in ILGA-Europe’s 2015 rainbow map

Malta this year advanced to third place from its 2014 11th placing  with an overall score of 77% (57% in 2014) when it comes to LGBTIlegislative and constitutional issues tied to LGBTI.

These results were published in ILGA-Europe’s rainbow map which looks at the progress, or the lack of it, which has been made on LGBTI issues.

Read More

Historic leap in equality as Malta rises to third place in ILGA ranking

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator, Gabi Calleja: “That Malta is now at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTIQ equality is something that encourages us to continue in our advocacy efforts”

Malta has shot up to a historic third ranking in the International Lesbian-Gay Association’s ‘Rainbow Europe’ league, for having advanced in LGBTI rights – namely with the introduction of civil unions and gender identity laws that made worldwide headlines.

Read More

NY Times: Surgery and Sterilization Scrapped in Malta’s Benchmark LGBTI Law

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Transgender people in Malta will no longer need to have surgery, sterilization and a diagnosis of mental illness to legally change gender under a law passed on Wednesday, which rights groups hailed as a new benchmark for LGBTI rights in Europe.

The majority of countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo a series of medical procedures, be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if married in order to have their desired gender legally recognized by the government.

The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act makes Malta only the second European nation, after Denmark, to allow transgender people to change their legal gender without any medical or state intervention.

The law also prohibits medically unnecessary surgery on the genitals of intersex infants, making Malta the first country in the world to do so, said ILGA-Europe, a network of European lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) groups.

People who are transgender are described as those who feel they have been born into the wrong gender body, while intersex refers to people who have ambiguous genitalia that are not considered typically male or female.

“It (the bill) provides an inspirational benchmark for other European countries that need to improve their own LGBTI equality standards,” Paulo Côrte-Real, co-chair of ILGA-Europe, said in a statement as the law was passed.

Denmark last year became the first European country to allow transgender people to change legal gender without medical intervention, but its law set a minimum age of 18 and requires people to wait six months before reconfirming their wish to be legally recognized as the opposite gender.

Malta’s law does not require a waiting period or specify a minimum age, but instead allows parents or legal guardians of a person under the age of 18 to apply in court on their behalf to change legal gender.

The law also enables parents or guardians of intersex children to postpone entering their child’s gender on their birth certificate, meaning that rushed, serious and often-irreversible surgery can be avoided, according to ILGA-Europe.

Arja Voipio, co-chair of rights group Transgender Europe, said demanding sterility, divorce, and a mental health diagnosis was “an unacceptable thing of the past”.

“Lawmakers in the rest of Europe should take inspiration from this trail-blazer for swift action,” Voipio said.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce)