Malta: The EU’s smallest country, creating the biggest change in LGBTI rights

This week the European Parliament and the LGBTI Intergroup welcomed Helena Dalli, the Maltese Minister for Civil Liberties, for the event, ‘First Malta, then the world – building respect for trans and intersex rights’, hosted by my S&D colleague Miriam Dalli MEP. Helena was also a keynote speaker at the first ever European Equality Gala, a fundraising evening for the European LGBTI movement.

On 1st April 2015, Maltese parliamentarians wrote history by adopting the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC). The law is a major step forward for trans and intersex persons in Malta, and it paves the way for the rest of Europe.

The law introduces the right for individuals to determine their gender identity, without first having to undergo medical tests, forced sterilisation, a forced divorce or a mental health diagnosis. A simple declaration based on self-determination before a notary is sufficient.

The law also introduces the right to body integrity and physical autonomy for all persons. This includes that so called ‘normalising’ surgeries on intersex babies is prohibited and that non-medically necessary treatment on the sex characteristics of a person without informed consent is unlawful.

Furthermore, it is possible for parents to postpone the entry of a gender on the child’s birth certificate, until the child’s gender identity is determined.

Disgracefully, eleven EU Member States still require sterilisation for legal gender recognition. Four EU countries do not offer the possibility to change their registered gender at all. This traumatising and disrespectful practice must end.

Malta is now a country that has the most comprehensive and respectful laws when it comes to the rights of trans and intersex people. Malta is the EU’s smallest country, but it has created the biggest change in European LGBTI rights.

The rights of trans and intersex people is not just an LGBTI issue – it is a human rights issue. I sincerely hope that the whole of Europe will follow Malta’s example to respect the dignity of human life and ensure the body dignity of all people. I strongly applaud the efforts of Maltese MPs and MEPs for bringing this issue to the forefront of the European stage.

These new rights cannot stop at Malta’s shores; the waves of equality must reach every corner of the EU until LGBTI discrimination is swept away, once and for all.

LGBTI intergroup