LGL Celebrates the Adoption of the Maltese Gender Identity Law

The National LGBT* Organization LGL welcomes the adoption of the landmark Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC Bill) as a historic groundbreaking for the rights of transgender and intersex people in Malta and Europe. The Maltese Parliament adopted the Bill on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

The Bill introduces a quick, transparent and accessible gender recognition procedure, based on self-determination, and foresees pro-active equality measures. The introduced procedure before a notary requires a simple declaration based on a person’s self-determination and prohibits requests for medical information. The entire process lasts a maximum of 30 days. It thus delivers a key task of gender recognition that is to quickly enable the individual to pursue their live without further interference. The procedure will be available not only for adults but also for minors, providing that application is regulated by court procedure. Thus, parents or legal guardians of an underage person can apply. The best interest of the child and the views of the minor have to be given due consideration. The Bill foresees that parents or guardians may decide to postpone the inclusion of a gender marker on the birth certificate until the child’s gender identity is determined. This has to be welcomed as it allows for time the child to make an informed decision.

Plus, the law prohibits surgical procedures without the person’s personal consent. Moreover, it protects the rights of trans and intersex people to express their gender identity, their bodily integrity and any discrimination based on the grounds of that.  It also regulates health care provision, prohibition of normalizing genital surgeries on intersex infants, and reform of public data collection. Moreover, measures are foreseen in areas of health, non-discrimination and criminal justice to create supportive and inclusive environments for trans and intersex persons.

A public consultation, three parliamentary readings and lively public debates prepared the adoption of the Bill. Both, governing and opposition parties voted for the project. The proposal of the law was celebrated at the seminar “Beyond the Binary”, hosted in Valletta today morning before the vote.

Presages of this victory for trans and intersex people in the Maltese legal framework, appeared evident already at the end of February to the representatives of LGL, who travelled to Marta in order to attend the seminar “Queer Pathways into Diversity: ‘Being Different’ as a Key Factor in LGBT*Q European Adult Education (QuPiD)”, the fifth partners’ meeting in the course of Grundtvig Learning Partnership. During their visit, from February 25th to March 1st , the LGL’s delegation participated in a gender diversity-themed seminar, organized by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM). The seminar was titled ‘Inclusion of Trans and Intersex Persons through Legislation and Policy’. During the seminar, MGRM Coordinator Gabi Calleja outlined the key priorities of the ‘Scope and Implications of Including Trans, Gender Variant and Intersex Students Policy’, which seeks to address issues pertaining to gender variance in schools in the wake of the just approved Gender Identity Act. Outlining the key parameters of the Gender Identity Act, Human Rights policy coordinator with the Ministry for Social Dialogue Silvan Agius said that the “norm is changing” even on the administrative level, as those on the gender variant continuum will now be able to change previous official documents to conform to their new gender – including youths applying for their new ID cards, at age 14 and onwards. The representatives of LGL were highly impressed by these positive developments on the policy level in Malta. According to the LGL’s Executive Director Vladimir Simonko, Malta now sets a high standard on the inclusion of trans and intersex people for the remaining countries in Europe. “Seeing how fast and how far Malta has come, it makes me wonder, weather this immense progress towards acceptance and inclusion will be possible in Lithuania one day,” – says Mr. Simonko.

In Lithuania, transgender individuals remain the most vulnerable and less visible group within the LGBT* movement. The legal categories of “gender identity” and “gender expression” simply do not exist in the Lithuanian legal system. Despite the judgment L. v. Lithuania by the European Court of Human Right (ECtHR) in 2007, there is no effective implementation of the right to fast, transparent and accessible gender reassignment procedure for transgender individuals in Lithuania.

In light of these complex policy developments, LGL strives to encourage the local trans* community to embark upon advocacy for their own cause. In August 2014, LGL organized a public trans* visibility & awareness raising campaign “Access all Areas! Recognition Opens Doors”. The campaign included creative workshops for the members of the local trans* community, trans* sensitivity training for the representatives of non-governmental organizations, movie screenings and awareness raising campaign. Plus, the invisibility of the legal problems of transgender people in Lithuania inspired LGL and TGEU to hold a series of public events “Being Trans* in Europe – Attitudes, Perspectives and Challenges” on the 27th-28th of August 2014 at the premises of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) in Vilnius, Lithuania. On March 19th-22nd, 2015 two representatives of LGL visited the partner organization Q – Queer Student Association in Reykjavik, Iceland. The main purpose of the visit was to acquire additional skills and competences in advocating for human rights of transgender individuals and to draw upon the best Icelandic practices in the fields of equality and non-discrimination.

At the moment the association LGL is exploring new methods to support trans* activism in Lithuania and to mainstream a trans* dimension into the organization’s activities. Since the situation of transgender individuals in Lithuania is so critical, it is now for LGL more pressing then ever the need of empowering local trans* community to advocate for a comprehensive legal and social change. Moreover, LGL encourages other states to review and reform their legislation with the same aim and in this spirit. At the moment in 34 countries, trans and intersex who want to undergo gender recognition procedure face invasive and abusive treatments. To have their name changed and their gender registered, trans and intersex people are forced to undergo sterilization and other medical interventions, to get a divorce (if married), to receive a diagnosis of mental illness (despite not being mentally ill) and many other disrespectful and offensive procedures.

For further information about the GIGESC Act and to read the full bill read here and here.

To read more about LGL projects for the trans* community and the LGB* community read here.

To learn more about the discrimination faced by the trans* community in Europe read here.