LGBT rights in Malta

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LGBT rights in Malta
Location of  Malta  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Malta  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1973
Gender identity/expression May change the indication of sex in official documentation
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Yes (both sexual orientation and gender identity)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2014
Adoption Yes, as individuals and jointly if in a civil union

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Malta have evolved significantly over the course of the last decades. Throughout the late-20th century, the rights of the LGBT community received more awareness and same-sex sexual activity became legal in 1973, with an equal age of consent.

Discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has been banned nationwide since 2004. Gays and lesbians are allowed to openly serve in the military since 2002. Gender identity and intersex protection laws in Malta are of the highest standard in the world under the Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act.[1] A law passed creating civil unions equal to marriage in all but name, with the same rights and obligations including joint adoption rights, was enacted in April 2014. However, same-sex marriage and both IVF and surrogacy access are still banned for same-sex couples. A 2015 opinion poll indicated that a majority of the public support same-sex marriage, with a significant increase over a decade.

Today, Malta has been recognized for providing a high degrees of liberty to its LGBT citizens. In October 2015, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) ranked Malta 1st in terms of LGBT rights out of 49 observed European countries.[2][3] Malta, and only other four countries in the world, has made LGBT rights equal at constitutional level.[4]


Main article: LGBT history in Malta

As a British colony, Malta adopted the penal code of Great Britain which criminalised same-sex relations between men. There are examples of individuals caught out by the law - including the lawyer, Guglielmo Rapinett who was arrested for lewd behaviour in the 19th century while trying to seduce a guard.[5][6][7] Only in 1973 did the Labour government decide to change Malta's laws to match those of Western Europe.[8]

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), founded in 2001, is a socio-political non-governmental organisation that has as its central focus the challenges and rights of the Maltese LGBT community.[9]

In February 2008, MGRM organised and presented a petition to parliament asking for a range of measures to be introduced to protect them through the law. The petition was signed by more than 1,000 people and asked for legal recognition of same-sex couples, an anti-homophobic bullying strategy for the island nation's schools and new laws targeting homophobic and transphobic crimes. The petition received the backing of Alternattiva Demokratika. Harry Vassallo, its leader, said that the recognition of gay rights would be a step forward.[citation needed]

In October 2009, George Abela, the president of Malta, met with the board of the European Region of ILGA at the presidential palace as the group prepared to open its 13th annual conference in Malta. Abela agreed that information and education were important in tackling discrimination and fostering acceptance of differences and that Malta has seen progress in LGBT acceptance. He was said that "love is the most important thing there is and it can't be 'graded' based on sexual orientation". It the first time a head of state met with ILGA-Europe members during one of the group's annual conferences.[10]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Malta since January 1973.[11][12] The Prime Minister of Malta Dom Mintoff and the Labour Party legislated for the removal of the British-introduced sodomy law, at the time opposed by the Roman Catholic Church in Malta and the Maltese Nationalist Party.[13] The age of consent is equal at 18 for all.[14]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

In September 2006, Joanne Cassar, a transgender woman, was denied the right to marry her partner. In 2007 a judge in Malta ordered government officials to issue her the appropriate documentation.[15] The Director of Public Registry successfully contested that ruling in May 2008. Cassar filed a constitutional application in the First Hall of the Civil Court charging a violation of her fundamental human rights. She won that case initially, but lost on appeal in 2011.[16] In April 2013, she reached a settlement with the government that included financial compensation in addition to promised statutory changes.[17] A leader of the Nationalist Party apologised for its part in contesting Cassar's right to marry.[18]

In April 2014, Malta became the first European state to add recognition of gender identity to its constitution as a protected category.[19]

In April 2015, Malta became the first country in the world to outlaw sterilisation and invasive surgery on intersex people. Also applicants can change their gender identity documents by simply filing an affidavit with a notary, eliminating any requirement for medical gender reassignment procedures under the Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act.[1][20][21]

In November 2015, the Minister of Home Affairs informed that 40 people have legally changed their gender since enactment of the law mentioned above.[22]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

On 28 March 2010, then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that the government was working on a bill to regulate cohabitation. He said it was hoped the bill would be completed by the end of the year.[23][24][25] On 11 July, Gonzi confirmed that the bill would be presented in parliament by the end of 2010.[26][27] The draft bill was presented by the Minister of Justice on 28 August 2012 and was under consultation process until 30 September.[28][29] The bill was introduced, but died in December 2012 due fall of the government and expected dissolution of the parliament.[30]

Following a campaign promise during the 2013 elections the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs, and Civil Liberties of the newly elected Labour government announced that the government was entering consultations for a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples, with the bill presented in Parliament on 30 September 2013.[31]

The Civil Unions Bill, which gives LGBT couples rights equivalent to marriage, including the legal right to adopt children jointly, under the legal name civil union rather than marriage, was debated in October 2013[32] and approved at the third reading on 14 April 2014. President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca signed it into law on 16 April 2014.[33]

In March 2016, Prime Minister of Malta and leader of the governing Labour Party Joseph Muscat stated at an International Women's Day event he was personally in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in the country and that it was "time for a national debate" on the issue.[34] The opposition Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil responded by stating that though the government was attempting to use the issue of same-sex marriage to distract from a government scandal, he could foresee no difficulty in amending Malta's civil union legislation of 2014 to legalise same-sex marriage.[34] The country's leading gay rights organisation subsequently called for a bill to be put forward opening up marriage to all couples irrespective of gender without delay.[35]

Religious blessing of same-sex unions[edit]

A Roman Catholic Dominican priest, acting contrary to church guidelines,[36] blessed the rings of a gay male couple in an engagement ceremony in April 2015.[37][38][39]


Pornography in Malta was illegal regardless of sexual orientation until late 2016.[40][41] Since 2015 the Minister of Social Justice Owen Bonnici started to work for legislation on allowing both services or art in creating pornographic material and also giving official right to access pornographic material.[42] By late 2016 the parliament of Malta gave the green light for conditional pornographic material. Pornography involving minors, disabled and extreme forms of expression, including threats with the use of such material, remain illegal for ethical reasons. Ponography is now considered as part of free speech and art expression and was officially regulated together with conditional vilification of religion in Malta. The government emphasised that hatred towards religious groups or individuals remains to be a crime. A same law exists protecting gay people from both religious or non-religious individuals or groups who intend to spread hatred towards LGBT people.[43][44][45] Pornography is not allowed to be broadcast by television stations that are licensed in Malta.[46] Such reforms also allow for the opening of porn shops. Maltese law allow pornography irrelevant of sexual orientation and with the same limitations.[47]

Emanuel Cini was one of the few known Maltese porn actors, with the stage name of Manu Maltes.[48][49] His porn career was outed by controversial blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.[50][51][52] Cini participated in limited pornographic videos in the American industry[53][54] with back then boyfriend Javier Lopez Cazalla, who is known by his stage name as Edu Boxer.[55] During his time living in England in the 1990s he was tested positive to HIV but remained living independently.[56][57][58] He returned to Malta in the 2000s to look after his aged parents, where he also suffered a form of paralyses[59] from a disease related to HIV.[56] His life in Malta became difficult with the crisis of the Malta Public Transport[60] which was under the management of Austin Gatt,[61] the transport Minister.[60] Galizia published information about his previous carrier[58] after complaining about the mismanagement of the public transport[62] (protesting by a hunger strike and missing his medicines),[63]on her belief that Cini is a supporter of the Labour Party but Cini categorically denied any political leaning. He kept in contact with back then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi[64] of whom had promised him a quick address to the crisis, on the condition that Cini takes his medicines.[62] In response to the situation Cini has uploaded a number of videos on youtube, where he expressed his opinion on the transport and political situations.[65]

Adoption, Surrogacy and IVF[edit]

Maltese law grants adoption rights to married couples and single persons, including individual gays and lesbians. Since April 2014, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt.[66][67] The first official adoption by a same-sex couple took effect on 13 July 2016.[68][69][70][71] For an effective adoption (by a single person, couple or partner) a court ruling is required for every individual child, irrelevant of the sexual orientation of any of the prospective parent or parents.[72] Surrogacy is illegal regardless and IVF access for single women and lesbians is illegal under the Embryo Protection Act 2012.[73] On 7 September 2015, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the government will introduce the bill to allow IVF access for female same-sex couples, among others.[74]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2004, Malta has a ban on anti-gay discrimination in employment, in line with European Union requirements[75] but discrimination remained common to some extent until 2009 according to results through questionnaires carried with the participation of the LGBT community.[76] Anti-discrimination protections were expanded in June 2012.[77]

In June 2012, the parliament amended the Criminal Code to prohibit hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[78][79][80]

On 14 April 2014, the Parliament of Malta unanimously approved a bill which amends the Constitution to add protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[81] It was signed by the President on 17 April 2014.[82]

On 10 December 2015, the government launched the public consultation on a draft of the comprehensive Equality Act, and on the bill to establish the Human Rights and Equality Commission.[83][84]

Sexual orientation conversion therapy[edit]

On 16 June 2015, Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli announced that the government plans to introduce the bill to ban sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy on minors.[85] On 15 December 2015, Dalli presented the bill for its first reading in Parliament. The public consultation of the bill was launched the same day and will last until 15 January 2016.[86][87][88][89]

Living conditions and societal attitudes[edit]

LGBT discoteque in Paceville

Living conditions for LGBT people have become more favourable in recent years—with same-sex relationships being accepted in public—though some negative conditions remain. A 2015 EU-wide survey, commissioned by the Fundamental Rights Agency, showed that 54% of gay people in Malta felt comfortable holding the hand of a same-sex partner in public, though only 40% were out at their work places.[90]

Malta has an active LGBT community, with well attended annual gay Pride parades in Valletta. A majority of prominent political leaders in Malta appeared at the pride parade in 2016, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.[91] There was a notable gay club in Floriana, named Tom Bar, which was the oldest in Malta. Another presently operating LGBT-friendly club is Monaliza in Valletta.[92][93][94]

In July 2007, Malta's Union of Teachers threatened to publish the details of four attempts to oust gay and lesbian teachers from Roman Catholic school posts. According to the union, Church schools were under pressure from parents to fire the teachers, leading to four interventions in the past five years.[95][96]

In 2015 the donation of reading material by the MGRM, that contained the teaching of diverse[97] families including same-sex parenting, to the education department caused some controversy. The education minister took a position not to distribute the material, questioning both directly inclusion and indirectly discrimination.[98]

Malta's response to the Orlando shooting[edit]

A vigil named 'Walk towards love',[99] was held in St. Julian's, Malta on 17 June from 7:30 onwards for the memory of the Orlando victims and support to their families and friends. The vigil was held in Balluta bay with participants holding candles from the Balluta parish church till the landmark Love Monument.[100] In recent years Malta has taken the most progressive initiatives to combat discrimination and the main political parties have taken stances in favour of the LGBT community in Malta each time an event is organised by the community to support LGBT acceptance, not merely tolerance.[101][102]

Candles and messages of support at the end place of the vigil, the Love Monument in St. Julians, Malta.

The vigil for the Orlando victims was organised by the Roman Catholic group Drachma[103] and joined by the secular Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM).[104] Amongst the distinctive attendants were politicians such as Arnold Cassola the Green Party leader of Alternattiva Democratica, the Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil, Clyde Puli (member of parliament for the Nationalist Party) and Michael Briguglio (the co-founder of the Civil Society Network). The vigil was also attended by the religious figures, such as the President of the Christian Life Community (Joseanne Peregin) that represents part of the protestant Christian community in Malta and Father Charles Cordina (the delegate for the Bishop of Malta),[105] and foreign dignitaries such as the USA Ambassador for Malta Kathleen Hill and the British High Deputy Commissioner for Malta.[106] A hashtag to gather general Maltese public support to the victims was created, as #MaltaforOrlando.[107] Helena Dalli, the minister of civil liberties, has passed her condolences to the families and friends to the victims and survivors.[108]

Public opinion[edit]

Polls have indicated a quick and drastic shift in public opinion on LGBT rights in Malta. The 2006 Eurobarometer survey found that 18% of the population supported same-sex marriage whereas 73% were against (63% totally against). Adoption by same-sex couples was supported by 7% and opposed by 85% (76% totally opposed).[109]

In June 2012, a poll commissioned by MaltaToday news website found that support for same-sex marriage had increased significantly, with 41% of the population in favour of same-sex marriage and 52% against it.[110] The 2012 data also showed a generational gap, with only 23% of people older than 55 supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage while 60% of those aged 18–35 did so.

The 2015 Eurobarometer found a majority of 65% in favour of same-sex marriage, with 29% against. This was the largest increase in support of any country surveyed in the Eurobarometer compared to the 2006 results.[111]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1973)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1973)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2012)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2012)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions) Yes (Since 2014)
Same-sex marriage Yes/No (Foreign marriages recognized since 2014)
Adoption by single LGBT person Yes (Since 2008)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2002)
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2015)
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures Yes (Since 2015)
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth No (Pending)
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No (Pending)
Access to surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned regardless of sexual orientation)[112]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]