MGRM warns against losing momentum on LGBTIQ rights

Against the backdrop of backsliding tendencies in parts of the EU, the Maltese LGBTIQ community voiced their concerns at a Brussels forum, fearing the loss of hard-won rights.

Though Malta has undeniably made significant strides in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) rights, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) is warning against complacency, urging authorities and lawmakers to adapt and push further as realities evolve.

Acknowledging that over the past decade Malta has established itself as a pioneer in this field, MGRM treasurer and spokesperson on trans issues, Amanda Cossai, said that “other countries have seen what we did, caught up with us, and improved on what we did. I’m glad to hear that, but what about us? Are we going to remain where we were ten years ago? There’s still a lot of improvement to be made. We still require better protection against discrimination faced by LGBTIQ pople in general, and let’s not forget that LGBTIQ migrants exist too and that they should be treated fairly.”

Amanda Cossai shared her views as a speaker at a discussion organised by several Maltese NGOs in collaboration with Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D) at the European Parliament in Brussels. Among those in attendance was Partit Laburista’s CEO, Randolph de Battista.

MGRM activist Amanda Cossai. Photo: David Mallia

Backsliding across the EU

Amanda Cossai sounded the alarm on the weaponisation of anti-trans sentiment within the EU, where it is fueling the loss of hard-fought LGBTQI rights in certain regions. A trans person herself, Cossai remarked: “Ultimately, we are just people trying to live our lives, but the anti-gender movement and those backing it are using us as a distraction from the real threats to society. Trans people are not a threat.”

For his part, MEP Engerer highlighted the concerning developments in Hungary, Italy, and Poland, where LGBTIQ rights have been facing increased setbacks – there is now hope in Poland after the appointment of former European Council President Donald Tusk as Prime Minister after eight years of nationalist rule.

MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D). Photo: David Mallia

“We really need to stand up for equality and take none of our achievements for granted,” he warned. Highlighting the critical need for unity, Engerer appealed to the coalition of the European left to continue standing shoulder-to-shoulder with civil society, activists, and the media in countering the anti-gender movement’s well-orchestrated disinformation campaign, fueled by far-right collaboration.

Meanwhile, offering insights from ILGA-Europe’s work, Cianan Russell, Senior Policy Officer at the independent, international NGO that advocates for the rights of LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia, further emphasised the seriousness of the setback trend. “Right now the situation seems rather grim,” they warned. “As it turns out, some of the gains that we’ve made are quite fragile… We’re learning  the hard way that even legislation does not protect us from backsliding. It’s the reason why we’re working hard with our colleagues at MGRM in Malta and other colleagues in the EU to build a robust campaign to convince people to get out and vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections.” The larger the pro-LGBTIQ minority within EU institutions following the June European elections, they argued, the more likely it is that existing gains will be preserved and even expanded.

Cianan Russell, Senior Policy Officer at ILGA-Europe. Photo: David Mallia

A Commissioner dedicated exclusively to Equality

MEP Cyrus Engerer pointed to the historic appointment of Helena Dalli as European Commissioner dedicated specifically to Equality, crediting her leadership with driving the outgoing EU mandate to become “probably the strongest one ever when it comes to equality”. Before being appointed the first ever Commissioner for Equality in December 2019, as government minister Dalli had a significant role in advancing LGBTIQ rights in Malta.

“The Commission that she forms part of is quite conservative, as the majority are from the European Poeple’s Party (EPP).  I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy ride for her, but we’ve seen a number of actions taken and legislation proposed in this area by the Commission,” Engerer noted.

Some of the participants in the discussion on LGBTIQ rights held at the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: David Mallia

He referred specifically to the proposal for a  Council Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition of decisions, and acceptance of authentic instruments in matters of parenthood and on the creation of a European Certificate of Parenthood, that was presented by the European Commission in 2022. It includes the recognition of the parenthood of children with two same-sex parents and children adopted domestically in a Member State by one or two parents.

The Maltese MEP said that, while the European Parliament has agreed to the legislative proposal, negotiations are proving difficult because, in the Council, a number of Member States have been blocking progress on this and other legisltion aimed at creating more equality. An estimated 2 million children may currently face difficulties in having their parenthood recognised in another Member State for all purposes, including when they move to another Member State or return to their Member State of origin.

Silvan Agius, a member of Commissioner Dalli’s secretariat, also highlighted the positive impact of a dedicated Equality Commissioner and urged civil society to resist a return to the pre-2019 system where equality was overshadowed by other priorities.

Silvan Agius, a member of European Commissioner Helena Dalli’s team

Thicker than Water

During the disussion, a documentary poduced by MGRM, titled Thicker than Water: Stories of Love, Acceptance & Belonging, was screened. The film explores the lives of LGBTIQ individuals and their families in Malta.

Main photo: Kindel Media

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