The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Church schools set to be banned from discriminating against employment of non-religious teachers

Helena Grech Monday, 12 December 2016, 19:14 Last update: about 4 years ago

The Equality Bill set to be presented in parliament this coming Wednesday for its first reading will effectively ban Church schools from choosing not to hire teachers based on a lack of religious affiliation, or an affiliation with any religion that is not catholic.

Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli, in a press conference, proudly spoke of two separate draft bills on equality that will be presented for a first reading in parliament, one regulating laws on equality and the other to set up an autonomous Commission for Human Rights and Equality under the jurisdiction of parliament.

The Equality Bill has been described by Dr Dalli to be the overarching law under which the array of civil liberty legislation passed by this current administration, such as the Gender Identity Act, falls uner.

The commission is empowered to issue fines and sanctions when there is a breach of this Bill. There is no clause regulating a maximum fine, however it may issue fines on a daily basis when a breach is identified and a conclusion is reached, but the individual or entity has failed to rectify this.

It will be replacing the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE), a government agency that currently handles discrimination complaints. The current NCPE is not empowered to issue any fines. Dr Dalli stressed that by removing the entity that investigates such complaints from under a government ministry, and placing it in the hands of parliament, this will greatly improve the overall process.

She added that the Commissioner will require a two-thirds majority in parliament in order to be approved.

Currently, under Maltese law one can be found to be discriminated against on the basis of gender and religion. Under the proposed law, once can be found to be discriminated against for whichever reason, be it age, gender, religion, race, political affiliation, etc.

The Bill seeks to regulate discrimination in all facets of life. It precludes insurance companies from charging a higher premium for homosexual men for fear that they have a higher risk of contracting HIV or aids. It also precludes businesses from denying its services based on any form of discrimination. For example a shopkeeper is not permitted under the proposed law to ban homosexual couples from entering his/her store.

Dr Dalli stressed that the consultation period was extensive for this law to reach parliament stage, and that much feedback was collected from a wide variety of stakeholders.

Photographs by Jonathan Borg

 

 

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