The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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Children’s Commissioner asked to investigate ABBA for intimidating children at gender fluidity play

Tuesday, 28 March 2023, 10:04 Last update: about 2 years ago

ADPD International Secretary Mina Jack Tolu has asked the Commissioner for Children to investigate the conservative Partit ABBA and their leader Ivan Grech Mintoff for allegedly harassing and intimidating children who attended a performance focused on gender fluidity.

Tolu wrote to Commissioner for Children Antoinette Vassallo saying that they had attended the play 'Gender Boss' at the Żigużajg festival, together with a friend and her young daughter.

“On entering Spazju Kreattiv I was shocked to be welcomed by a security guard who was stationed at the entrance to the studio where the play was being shown. After the play and creative workshop I spoke to the team at Spazju Kreattiv, and asked them about the presence of security. They claimed it was necessary due to the presence at prior showings of members of Partit ABBA, who also recorded the play and workshop and asked questions to the children present,” Tolu wrote.

Tolu said that Partit ABBA and Partit ABBA leader Ivan Grech Mintoff posted on social media that they had seen Gender Boss and will be looking into taking legal action against it.

“This is extremely concerning as I believe their presence was directly impacting on the freedom of children to access culture. Access to culture is an important right for children to enjoy, and they should do this without fear of harassment or intimidations in the places set up precisely for this purpose,” they said.

As a person who has watched the play and attended the workshop I can attest to it being appropriate for children, they added.

“The characters were a tooth fairy and a boogeyman who explored a magic basement where they could be who they wanted to be without the restrictive rules that tooth fairies and boogeymen usually have to follow. After the play, the actors led a creative story-building workshop where children could write their own characters, and invent their own stories. My initial reaction to the production can be watched here. As an LGBTQI person I could only wish that this play was available when I was younger, and that I would have attended it. It would have made me feel more seen, and additionally I would have had a great time participating in the workshop,” Tolu wrote.

Tolu said that they remain extremely concerned by the dangerous behaviour and actions of a registered political party, and therefore called upon Vassallo to investigate Partit ABBA and their leader Ivan Grech Mintoff for intimidation and harassment in a children's space.

“It is impossible to negate the real harms of political discourse that preceded the play. This was very much spearheaded by PN MPs Justin Schembri and Julie Zahra,” they noted.

In that regard, Tolu said that they had contacted the CROM, publishers of the Children's Manifesto which MPs Schembri and Zahra signed last year, to ask them to rescind these signatures “as it is clear that both MPs have acted against the manifesto which they have signed.”

As a signatory to the Children’s Manifesto Tolu told the publishers that they feel duty bound to call out MPs Justin Schembri and Julie Zahra, who were also signatories to the manifesto, “but clearly do not remember the positive messages for diversity that the children called for,” noting that Schembri “was actually happy that this children's show with the aim to combat traditional gender norms had a low turnout due to their aggressive stance on the issue.”

“I request that MP Zahra and MP Schembri's signatures to the manifesto are rescinded, as they have clearly worked contrary to what it stands for,” Tolu said.

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