Malta: A Tiny Nation Learns the Rewards of LGBT Progress

Malta used to be known as a very conservative country, where social opinion, reflected in politics and policies, was heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Divorce was outlawed, abortion was — and remains — criminalized in all cases, and the law failed to address key human rights concerns affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

On one front at least, in the past four years, this country of 420,000 people has pleasantly surprised the world with progressive LGBTI rights legislation. It introduced a gender identity recognition bill, drawing on best practices that place it as a leader ahead of many other countries. Transgender people can have their gender identity reflected in their identity papers without the interference of courts, doctors or psychiatrists. Maltese citizens can choose to have “female” or “male” removed from their passport and identity cards and replace it with an X.

The government also introduced a law banning cosmetic surgery on intersex babies. Reparative conversion therapy for gay and lesbian people was outlawed. And the government adopted civil unions, including for same-sex couples, as well as adoption by same-sex couples.

As Malta continues to grow more outward-looking and forward-thinking, and continues its integration into Europe, the government should view its progressive stance on LGBTI legislation as an example of best practice, learn from it, and extend the inspiring progress on LGBTI issues to other human rights topics, including other sexual and reproductive rights.

What is the secret behind Malta’s rapid progress on LGBTI issues? I decided to visit the island and ask around.  Read more via the Advocate