The Malta Independent 23 September 2019, Monday

The law’s influence on society is not enough – Helena Dalli

Jeremy Micallef Monday, 3 June 2019, 10:58 Last update: about 5 months ago

We must work more on the attitudes in Malta because the law has influenced society, but it is not enough, Minister for Equality Helena Dalli said.

The “All Welcome” campaign aimed at “attracting more consumers by giving them a feeling of safety” in establishments was launched today by the Ministry for Equality and the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).

The campaign is being advertised to establishments as a “marketing tool” to be used to “promote your active participation in this initiative on various media platforms”, and that all businesses and organisations taking part in the campaign will be featured on a specifically created webpage.

Speaking at the press conference, Dalli said that we have now arrived at a stage in Malta where after the equality and inclusion laws were implemented, we must not see that we go to the next level.

“The law has influenced society but it is not enough.”

She maintained that it was important to have initiatives such as this to “encourage the leaders of our society”.

“Without realizing there are people who feel excluded even when they go make a phone contract or a bank loan because they would be worried about what they would be asked.”

The Equality Minister insisted that when we go into the world of commerce and hospitality, there must be an agreement between the Government and the individual who is running the business that they will be inclusive, noting that a similar initiative exists with regards to gender with the “equality mark” from the National Commission for the Protection of Equality (NCPE).

Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi echoed Dalli’s words, explaining that once the legislation was put in place, Malta is at the forefront of Europe with regards to rights and sense of fairness.

“As the Malta Tourism Authority, we are working so that we can use the advances done by civil society and Government as well, so that people outside of Malta will know that we are friendly and welcoming.”

Mizzi added that whilst these initiatives are important, it was important for this culture change to be encouraged through education.

Head of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Characteristics (SOGIGESC) Unit at the Human Rights and Integration Directorate (HRID) Gabi Calleja explained that meetings with various individuals had already been held to show how this campaign will work, clarifying that the idea is “to have outreach not only with large companies but also with local grocers”.

“We aiming not only towards foreigners but also locals.”

She did add that the requirements for entry into this initiative are “nothing more than what is already expected”, and that they “know that these things are already being done, but this would make it more visible”.

Deputy CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority Leslie Vella explained that there are two sides of the coin in the tourism industry – the supply side and the demand side.

Vella said that those who travel do it in order to interact with the local populace, and that it was the role of Government to promote Malta as a tourism destination, adding that the LGBTIQ demographic is very attractive – both socially and economically.

He also added that they will be working to ensure that the necessary training is done at every level of business.


LGBT-NGO non-commital

In a statement, Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) have said that "as an NGO", they are "neither endorsing nor opposing this initiative" - however they do have serious concerns.

"We are sure the Equality Ministry will be quick to state that ARC is on the LGBTQ+ consultative council and should have raised the flag at discussion stage but for lack of resource capacity, ARC has long been inactive in the said council."

ARC, however, did appear to put the stickers in a positive light by noting that "rainbow stickers in various businesses around the world have been a normal and long held practice to show support and in welcoming LGBTQ+ people", and that this is "a win-win situation for both business and clientele alike".

"We see value in such an initiative when taken up by the business without feeling pressured by the State to do so."

They add that they've been working on a similar "behind-the-scenes" intiative by speaking to various businesses and building a "Pink Pages" directory on their website.

"This is of value especially for people coming from trans/homophobic countries and cultures which offered safe and much sought after spaces."

"The reactions we've seen today are unfortunate but in now way should be invalidated, especially when they come directly from the LGBTQ+ community."

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