The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Gay Pride: a long-term strategy for a national gay rights paradigm shift

Wednesday, 11 September 2019, 08:39 Last update: about 9 days ago

Graziella Attard Previ

Around 80 years have passed since the idea that homosexual people should be annihilated in the most savage way in various concentration camps around Europe. However, unfortunately, even though the LGBTIQ community, in civilised countries, has managed to claim a number of civil rights, millions of people are still being discriminated, abused and killed because of their sexual orientation. That is one of the reasons why the gay movement still needs to be seen and be heard, and also we have to always remember the struggle that this movement had to go through to achieve the dream of equal rights. The gay movement has managed to do so in a number of countries, yet discrimination is rampant in various parts of the World. Let us not forget our brethren in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where being gay could lead you to capital punishment.

Our country has strived hard to give a number of civil rights to gays. I have to salute the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) whose members have worked hard to put Malta among the list of nations where LGBTIQ individuals are not frowned at. But, while legislation plays an important role in giving what is due to all members of society irrespective of their sexual orientation, there is still more to be done. I have to say that in Malta we are proud that LGBTIQ can freely express their love, get married and even adopt children. However, many LGBTIQ are still living in the closet because they fear discrimination within the family, at school and at work. On paper, legislation has provided equal opportunities for LGBTIQ individuals, however the everyday reality is often in stark contrast with the rights in theory. A national change in mentality is needed before LGBTIQ individuals can truly be free from discrimination.

I have to admit that the Nationalist Party, being on the more conservative spectrum of politics in Malta, was not at the forefront in giving the civil rights that many gays were asking for. This has led to a number of people feeling alienated by the Party. However, in recent years, we have moved forward and we are in agreement that discrimination should always be condemned and removed. Through the setting up of the Forum for Equal Opportunities (FOIPN) the Nationalist Party wants to ensure that all people are treated equally, irrespective of their age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation. We are proud of the diversity of people, because we want to represent the wider spectrum of people. Sexual orientation should never be an issue, and therefore we have a number of LGBTIQ activists who work within this forum and make their voices heard, so that the party can plan its policy according to the needs of a wider spectrum of people. Our ideal is to normalize and mainstream this reality.  

The way forward is a long-term strategy to facilitate a national paradigm shift regarding gay rights. Education is key in bringing about this change. Educational programmes need to be tailor-made for different age groups. Schools can be the hub where a fresh and inclusive approach could permeate not only pupils but also families. However, the slow process of schooling on its own can never achieve the desired result. The whole nation needs to be educated and encouraged to adopt an accepting stance. The whole nation needs to strive to ensure that gay voices are voices which are being given space, an audience and allowed to influence what happens in society. Different stakeholders could come together to draft a national programme which raises awareness against LGBTIQ discrimination and which models positive examples. A multi-faceted approach could be adopted to ensure that a wide audience as possible is engaged. Unfortunately past experience has shown that, at times, legislators themselves need to be re-educated. The sad example of the LGBTIQ stickers for restaurants depicted the pitiful state of the mentality of those who came up with this idea. The sticker idea typifies the arrogant and ignorant manner in which some individuals are interpreting inclusion.  Promoting awareness, exclusion and inclusion somehow became warped, with the end result offending LGBTIQ individuals.

Our differing sexual orientations and preferences should be contributing to the beautiful rainbow which unifies us. We are all equal and we should all have an equal opportunity to lead a tranquil life free from discrimination, where our talents, aptitudes, our love and our sexual orientation can be openly and freely expressed. We are all valuable and the more we appreciate each other, regardless of our sexual orientation, the sooner we can lead a harmonious life for ourselves, and for those around us. As a nation we have to work harder to facilitate this for everyone, to ensure that we can all live harmoniously together and to celebrate our sexual orientation without fear or prejudice.

 

Graziella Attard Previ is the President of the Nationalist Party’s Equal Opportunities Forum  (FOIPN)

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