The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Pride March - A long walk ahead

Saturday, 14 September 2019, 09:49 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Malta Pride activities reach their highlight this evening with the Pride March, which will take place in Valletta.

Over the past days, the LGBTIQ community in Malta celebrated the achievements reached over the past years but also highlighted the problems that still exist.

The last six years have seen the introduction of civil unions and gay marriage, and same-sex couples can now adopt children. The country has criminalised conversion therapy and great efforts are being made to promote equality and diversity and raise awareness on challenges and needs of the gay community.

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The progress is being acknowledged and Malta has this year placed first in the ILGA ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe LGBTIQ Index for the fourth time in a row.

So why does the LGBTIQ community in Malta need to organise a parade, some may ask?

The truth is that the situation looks good, very good, in fact, on paper, but the reality on the ground is a bit different.

Let us mention just two examples that caught our attention over the past 24 hours.

The first was the amount of hate messages posted under a number of TMI reports on Pride Week activities, including a report on an event where children discussed what they understand by Pride and what the Maltese LGBTI community needs.

Ironically, one of the news reports that was targeted was about how some children of same sex families have to hide this fact to avoid bullying.

The second example is the burning of a Rainbow flag that had been outside the Balzan local council offices.  The incident drew condemnation from council members and Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis but was, unfortunately, applauded by others.

The truth is that homophobia and intolerance are still rife in this country, and it will be a while until they are stamped out.

This is one of the main reasons why The Malta Independent is this year a Pride Week media partner, because we believe that, while we have a sound legal framework and human rights, the educational and social aspects are still lacking when it comes to understanding and accepting LGBT people.

It is somewhat similar to migration - people often fear what they don't understand, so the key is to help them understand that we are all the same - people with families, jobs, feelings and aspirations - and we need to respect one another.

Pride March is not some pointless exercise to celebrate past achievements. It happens because there are sections of society who still feel marginalised, who still feel that they are looked down upon by some members of society, and that they do not enjoy the same rights as the rest of us.

In an ideal world there would be no need to celebrate gay rights, because everyone should have the same rights irrespective of sexual orientation, colour or creed. But this is not yet reality, at least not in practice.

There is much more that needs to be done, including to see to the needs of elderly gay people, who often fear humiliation when entering residential homes. It is important that those working in support services understand the needs of older LGBT people.

This is one of the areas where the country could focus next. 


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