28 March 2010 – Malta Today
A secret history of Malta
Maltese-Australian lawyer Joseph Carmel Chetcuti’s compendium on Maltese gay life is a first, but its relevance is not restricted to gay people only: it is a missing part of an island’s history
by Matthew Vella
As a chronicle of gay life, Queer Mediterranean Memories is an exhaustive memoir of gay haunts, beats, and clubs, and the personalities that brought these places to life. As the first historical record of its kind, much of Joseph Carmel Chetcuti’s monograph is based partly on anecdotal reminiscences, partly on personal inference on Malta’s queer who’s who. Much of his work is historically referenced, giving readers a coherent picture of gay life from the decadent heyday of post-war Strait Street with tales of its drag queens, orgies and gay hangouts; through to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and the creation of Malta’s modern gay rights movement.
There is however much history that is based on anecdotal evidence, some rumour and speculation, and in obvious cases such as his reinterpretation of Dun (now saint) Gorg Preca, personal inference: how much is this actual history, or are we just dealing with pop culture book, a manifest of gay life ultimately intended for gay people only?
“It’s not strictly speaking a gay history. I look at aspects of gay history, the way Maltese law impacts gays and lesbians, and how it discriminates against gay people. It tries to do a lot of things, and I adopted this approach because there was nothing of this kind,” Chetcuti says. Much of the stuff here is original, some it well known revelations of gay men and women: broadcaster Charles Arrigo comes as no surprise, while Chetcuti also lists former President Agatha Barbara and Allied Publications’ founder Mabel Strickland. Others include the fabled Mary-Man, from Sliema: the testosterone-infused woman who worked as a bouncer in the bars on the ferries, and a misfit made cruel fun of by little boys. Other snippets describe life in Malta as we never knew it: because it was a secret, and part of a historical inventory held inside the minds of Malta’s queer society. In this sense, Chetcuti’s book is a collection of stories and anecdotes illustrating this secret life, perhaps never making it into the public consciousness because of the prevailing hypocrisy and prejudice.
In one instance, he talks of the Wembley Store boys, who during the 1960s and 1970s would hang around in Republic Street before making their way to Valletta’s Lantern Bar, a gay-friendly pub in Sappers Street. Chetcuti says there were the first men in modern Malta to flaunt their sexuality, even get intimate in the store’s narrow doorway. “They defied dominant heterosexual culture and challenged traditional Roman Catholic values. They were a barometer of youths’ discomfort with gender stereotyping and disenchantment with the establishment. They were our precursors, the John the Baptists of Malta’s gay and lesbian liberation.”
Other accounts are gleaned from first-hand interviews with the people who lived their days in Strait Street (Valletta, as a port town, is the epicentre of much of the gay life chronicled by Chetcuti): “It provides some idea of where people can go when they tackle a history of gay Malta. When we’re dealing with aspects of a minority group that is really invisible on a formal level, it is important to try and make it visible by ensuring that these anecdotes and stories are not lost. My view is that if I didn’t write the story of Balzunetta and Strait Street, these anecdotes would be lost; the last drag queen, Cookie, passed away a few years ago…”
Chetcuti admits that his book attracts controversy because his approach “recreates the past… history is a creative process. You don’t simply react to sources, and you interpret it on the basis of the present looking at the past. I bring all my prejudices and outlooks, and my experience and deficiencies to this work.”
This is where I bring up his liberal interpretation of Saint Gorg Preca’s sexual orientation, whom Chetcuti identifies as “one of us” – supposedly convinced by his feminine voice, his partiality towards having young men lead the MUSEUM Catholic doctrine society, and his low esteem of women. It was this irresistible piece that generated controversy, even attracting Gozo bishop Mario Grech’s opprobrium.
April 2010 – The Malta Independent
Major discrimination against gay and lesbian people still takes place in all spheres
by Annaliza Borg
There are major cases of discrimination against gay and lesbian people everywhere, including in employment and the social rights sphere, said a Malta Gay Rights Movement representative last Wednesday during a debate entitled ‘Move Opens the Closet’.
The debate was organised by the progressive students organisation Move and led by Alistair Bugeja. Psychologist and university lecturer Mary Borg Cunen, Cyrus Engerer from the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Anthony Galea, a psychologist from LGBT Labour and Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi were on the panel. A number of students (although much fewer than the number of those who confirmed attendance on facebook) participated.
Mr Engerer, who is also a Nationalist Party councillor, said the road ahead was very long but we must start with defining family and adoption regulations in state legislation. Cohabitation, adoption and marriage rights were MGRM’s priority, he noted. Pointing out that single people and heterosexual couples who lived together could adopt children but gay or lesbian couples could not, Mr Engerer said this was unfair. Moreover, several LGBT people were having children from heterosexual encounters just for the sake of having children. Even children’s rights were not being protected because of lack of legislation, he said.
Addressing LGBT in education was very important, Mr Engerer said, as teachers did not know how to tackle bullying cases against students of particular sexual orientations. Gay people were still being sent away from home and deprived of shelter when they came out to their families explaining their sexual orientation. Cases of 14 to 20 year olds who sought refuge away from home were common, Mr Galea agreed.
Ms Borg Cunen said studies showed no problems in the upbringing of children by gay couples however discrimination in schools against children brought up by gay couples existed. She explained that homosexuality was not an orientation people chose, but which they realised when growing up. Some research points out it is genetically inherited. Slight differences in chromosomes, the brain and biology of heterosexual and homosexual people were noted.
Asked whether there was a need for a specific LGBT group within the Labour Party and whether this emphasised differences rather than ironing out difficulties, Mr Galea said the PL had taken the first initiative to give LGBT people a direct voice. The group was to help the PL in its work and work to abolish discrimination against gays. However he did point out this group was made up of five to 10 members and “still very fluid”. It was working on a set of guidelines for its members and proposals for the party. “The PL may not agree with our ideas but we will push for them,” he said.
Peppi Azzopardi accused the PL of trying to make everyone happy but taking no particular stand in favour of LGBT. Being a left-wing party, it should act otherwise, he said. “Imagine the case of a man and a woman who decide they want to get married and have children but the state does not allow them. This is the situation with gay couples and it is totally unfair,” he said. Although before the last general elections, the Nationalist Party had called for a stop against gay discrimination, promised that cohabitation would be recognised and the promotion of equality would be taken care of by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, nothing was done.
Alternattiva Demokratika was the party speaking in accordance with full LGBT rights. Meanwhile, the state was still providing books with illustrations of the stereotype cereal box family – a man and a woman with two children, a boy and a girl. “I have to show and explain to my son that other family structures are normal,” Mr Azzopardi said. He also noted that homophobia was linked with false impressions that LGBT people abused others.
Participating students had harsh words about MEP Simon Busuttil who attended the last gay pride parade but then took a particular vote against gays recently. “What did he come for,” they wondered. Similarly, students complained against a recent statement which President George Abela made in favour of traditional families while excluding other family structures, during a conference on the family. Gozo Bishop Mario Grech also seemed to pick on gays, discriminating against them time and time again.
The panel believed the Church had its own ideals and should only act as a lobby group. State legislation should be completely independent.
May 25, 2010 – PinkNews
Malta has poor record on gay rights
by Christopher Brocklebank
The European body of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA-Europe, has concluded that Malta does not do enough to recognise or protect LGBT rights, according to the body’s recently published Rainbow Europe Country Index. The index places ratings on countries according to a scale stretching from minus four (lowest negative score) to ten (highest positive score). Malta only achieved one point, placing it on a level with other European countires that are considered to have a poor track record on LGBT human rights, inlcuding Catholic and Orthodox strongholds such as Italy and Greece.
Gaby Calleja of the Malta Gay Rights Movement told Times of Malta: "Although on paper many think we are becoming more tolerant, there is nothing to boast about if Malta is still behind countries like Bulgaria and Romania when it comes to our basic human rights." Malta’s only current law that affords protection to people on the basis of their sexuality relates to employment. However, the island still has no laws pertaining to discrimination over goods and services and hate speech is not considered a crime when it is related to homosexuality.
With its single point, Malta remains ahead of Cyprus, Poland, Latvia and the Vatican, all of which obtained a zero score. The EU countries considered the most liberal, earning between nine and ten points, were Sweden, Spain, Belguim and The Netherlands. The only EU territory where homosexuality is against the law is the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus. Despite this, legislation there is rarely enforced.
22 October 2010 – United Nations OHCHR
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concludes forty-seventh session
Committee Adopts Conclusions on the Periodic Reports of Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Malta, Tunisia and Uganda as well as on an Exceptional Report by India
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning concluded its forty-seventh session, adopting concluding observations and recommendations on the periodic reports of Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Malta, Tunisia and Uganda, which it examined at this session, as well as concluding observations on an exceptional report submitted by India regarding the impact of the Gujarat massacres of 2002 on women. The Committee also adopted a general recommendation on the rights of older women and a general recommendation on Article 2 of the Convention.
The six countries whose reports were examined at the present session are among the 186 States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In ratifying the Convention, these States commit to submitting regular reports to the Committee on how they are implementing the Convention’s provisions. Following an examination of those reports, in the presence of delegations from the States parties, the Committee adopted, in private session, concluding observations and recommendations for each report, contained in the following documents: for Burkina Faso, CEDAW/C/BFA/CO/6; for the Czech Republic CEDAW/C/CZE/CO/5; for India CEDAW/C/IND/CO/SP.1; for Malta CEDAW/C/MLT/CO/4; for Tunisia CEDAW/C/TUN/CO/6; and for Uganda CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/7. These documents will be available on the Committee’s Web page here
In her closing statement, Zou Xiaoqiao, acting Chairperson of the Committee, said that during this session, the Committee had considered the reports of six States parties and had held informal meetings with entities of the United Nations System, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Committee members had also attended several lunchtime briefings organized by non-governmental organizations, and they were very pleased by the high level of attendance of NGOs, which once again made a significant contribution to the work of the Committee. The Committee was thankful to those entities which had provided it with detailed information and encouraged them to deepen their advocacy for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights and the implementation of the Convention.
In addition, the Committee adopted a general recommendation on the rights of older women, a comprehensive interpretation of human rights and States parties’ obligations as they apply in the context of aging. The Committee said it was concerned about the multiple forms of discrimination experienced by older women on the grounds of age and sex which was often a result of unfair resource allocation, maltreatment, neglect and limited access to basic services. The Committee recognized the need for statistical data disaggregated by age and sex as a way to better assess the situation of older women. The Committee also recognized that older women were not a homogeneous group. They had a great diversity of experience, knowledge, ability and skills. Their economic and social situation, however, was dependent on a range of demographic, political, environmental, cultural, employment, individual and family factors. The general recommendation on older women and the recognition of their rights explored the relationship between all the articles of the Convention and ageing. It identified the multiple forms of discrimination that women faced as they aged; outlined the content of the obligations assumed by States as parties to the Convention, from the perspectives of ageing with dignity and older women’s rights; and, included policy recommendations to mainstream the responses to the concerns of older women into national strategies, development initiatives and positive action so that older women could participate fully without discrimination and on the basis of equality with men in the political , social, economic, cultural, civil and any other field in their society.
29 March 2011 – PinkNews
Maltese trans man wins right to be recognised as male
by Jessica Geen
A transgender man in Malta has won the right to have his birth certificate changed to ‘male’. The 26-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born female but said he had always felt and acted like a man. He has had gender reassignment surgery abroad. Malta insists that trans men and women must have ‘irreversible’ surgery in order to change gender. Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi granted his request to change his birth certificate and his name and ordered the public registry to make the changes.
The case follows a transgender woman’s struggle to be allowed to marry. Joanne Cassar has won and lost her battle at various levels of the Maltese court system since 2004. The Director of Public Registry has denied her requests and claims that gender identity laws were created to protect trans people’s privacy, rather than giving them state recognition.
25 August 2011 – PinkNews
Maltese LGBT community faces legal anomaly after discriminatory rule is revoked
by Stephen Gray
The rights of the gay community in Malta have been left in disarray after EU intervention saw a restriction on migration struck from the law books. The central Mediterranean group of islands which makes up the country has a strong Catholic ethos, which means gay couples have little in the way of governmental recognition. Until this year, non-recognition of gay relationships was applied equally to Maltese citizens and to foreign nationals: those in other member states of the EU and in non-EU, third countries across the world. But in 2010, the EU passed a new directive concerning the free movement of EU citizens between states.
The directive instructed member states to allow entry into their country for an EU citizen and a third country national, so long as they are in a “durable” relationship, regardless of their genders. Malta, which joined the EU in 2004, enacted legislation, but failed to properly execute the directive. Where one member of a couple was a third country national in a same-sex union, Malta denied the right to freedom of movement by building in an exemption that applied to gays.
Following infringement proceedings by the European Commission, the Maltese government has been forced to strike the clause that said the country only recognised partners “in a durable relationship” if such relationships were not in “conflict with the public policy of Malta”. Malta has a public policy of non-recognition of same-sex unions. But with the striking down of the clause comes a migrative anomaly: the same-sex partner of an EU citizen can move with that EU citizen to Malta, but the parter of a Maltese resident, who already lives in the country, cannot move to Malta.
An American and a British person in a civil partnership, or any durable relationship, could therefore freely move to the islands, but that American could not move directly to Malta if their partner was a native resident. In effect, the same-sex partner of a British citizen has more legal right to live in Malta than the same-sex partner of a Maltese citizen. Gabi Calleja, the coordinator for the Maltese Gay Rights Movement, said: “This amendment is welcome but it in no way replaces the necessity for the introduction of comprehensive legislation recognising same-sex couples. It is regrettable that a number of same-sex couples are forced to leave Malta in order to sustain their relationship each year.”
In 2009 the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) released its legal analysis of homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the 27 member states. It concluded that Maltese people in same-sex relationships “are not treated in a like manner to heterosexual couples simply because of their sexual orientation.” However, in a mark of progress, a transgender man who was born female and underwent surgery abroad, was allowed to update his official birth records to reflect the change.
A 2009 study found 49% of the students at the archipelago’s University supported gay marriage, compared with a national study three years earlier that put the number at 18% for the general populace.