LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Malta celebrates landmark gender identity law

ILGA-Europe send warm congratulations to our friends and allies in Malta on the day that the country’s historic Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act received final approval from parliament.

‘To say that this Act is a groundbreaking human rights milestone is almost an understatement.’ commented Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, Paulo Côrte-Real. ‘It provides an inspirational benchmark for other European countries that need to improve their own LGBTI equality standards. The Act is a beacon of hope - and bears testament to the political leadership and hard work of the LGBTI movement in Malta.’

The GIGESC Act validates the human rights of trans and intersex people and protects them from discrimination. It will provide rights to gender identity, bodily integrity and physical autonomy for all persons. It clearly outlines the legal gender recognition procedure, not just for adults but also for minors. The law also prohibits any unnecessary surgical procedure on the sex characteristics of a person without their consent, making Malta the first country in the world to enact such a provision.

‘The GIGESC Act is a thoughtful, inclusive piece of legislation. It provides all-compassing benefits for many groups, including trans persons, intersex persons and minors.’ said ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis. ‘Crucially, it marks a major step away from the pathologisation of trans and intersex identities.’

The Maltese law was based on proposals by the LGBTI Consultative Council and further developed following a consultation period involving many international human rights organisations, including ILGA- Europe. The Act’s importance and expected impact for the trans and intersex community was celebrated at a seminar entitled ‘Beyond the Binary’ held in Valletta this morning before the vote.

The passage of the GIGESC Act follows in the footsteps of several promising legislative and constitutional changes made by Maltese parliamentarians in recent years. In 2013, the newly elected government apologised to Joanne Cassar, who had brought her fight for marriage rights for trans persons all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. Measures to recognise trans persons in their true gender and allow them to enter civil marriage were passed. The following year in 2014, gender identity was added to the constitutional list of non-discrimination grounds; gender identity was recognised as falling within the remit of a particular social group for asylum purposes and trans people were afforded greater protection under national employment laws.

The third reading vote itself was particularly noteworthy as the opposition parties had flagged their intention to side with the government on this bill. The unanimous vote, signalling broad political support for LGBTI equality, marked the final step in the legislative process. The bill will now be presented to President Maria Louise Coleiro Preca for her signature.