Malta’s minister for civil liberties, Helena Dalli, launched a conference on LGBT rights across the European Union, urging politicians to join in “helping shape public opinion, not to be led by it”. Ms. Dalli was speaking in Valetta at a high-level ministerial conference on LGBTI rights as part of the Maltese EU presidency. She used Malta as an example of a country that was previously lagging in sexual and gender rights but said that the country was quickly catching up. She said that other states were seen as “not ripe for progress” but that they can “change, and change fast”. “Politicians are there to help shape public opinion, not be led by it”, she added.
Ms. Dalli further mentioned that her country had recently made a few important liberal moves, such as liberalizing civil partnership in April 2014, introducing gender-neutral toilets in government buildings in September 2016 and proposing “non-binary gender“ classifications on identity cards and passports. Moreover, legislation is now being updated to give a green light to full gay marriage. However, what stands in the start contrast to these achievements in gender and LGBT rights is the fact that Malta is the only EU country that has a full ban on abortion.
During the conference, the results of a survey of 93,000 LGBT people across the EU were presented. The survey found that 47% had been the victim of discrimination in the past 12 months and of those, only 10% reported it to police or authorities. About 66% avoided holding hands in public, and 80% had heard jokes directed against the LGBTI community. 20% of those interviewed also reported that they had been discriminated against either at work, or in applying for jobs.