Yesterday I had the pleasure to participate in an online Facebook live discussion “The Relevance of Pride in 2020?” with the Gozitan LGBTI+ community.
A healthy and fruitful discussion about two important topics: sexual health in Malta and Gozo and Racism and Transphobia in Malta, after which I had my intervention, as a member of the European Parliament’s LGBTI intergroup.
This discussion took place a week after the Pride Celebration in Malta. This year’s pride in Malta took a more symbolic approach due to the unprecedented situation we are now living as a result of the COVID-19 situation.
The topics discussed are quite relevant as it is not pride if it is Racist and Trans exclusionary. Furthermore, as it did worldwide, COVID affected sexual health services which have taken a step back in light of related restrictions.
This topic merits a wide discussion.
My collaboration with LGBTI+ Gozo goes back for many months now. Some time back I had an interesting meeting with the LGBTI+ Gozo Group during which the importance of strengthening the Sexual Health Services in Gozo was also brought up.
This is not a new subject as during the run up campaign for the European Parliament election I had already voiced my opinion that there is need for a sexual health clinic (GU clinic) in Gozo.
Sexual health is not just a personal health issue but also a public one. I remember that in a press release I had issued at that time I mentioned that there were around 6,000 persons that visited the GU clinic at Mater Dei Hospital in 2018, and that 2,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections had been reported.
Legislation is not enough to eliminate discrimination. How can we say that we are there, when not everyone has the necessary medical services available to them?
I am referring to sexual health services here and the issues we still face in our country in this remit. Gozitans are not sufficiently protected and I am still committed to seeing it materialise as a matter of right.
Again I reiterate the need for further sexual education, especially amongst children and young adults. We have to make great leaps in sexual education. We have to remove the taboo within family discussions.
We have to equip parents with the knowledge and knowhow to teach their children. This is key in fostering tighter relationships, more open dialogue and above all crucial in shielding our children from abuse and hatred.
Racism and Transphobia unfortunately is also a reality.
The European Parliament takes the plight of the LGBTIQ+ communities very seriously. We made it a point to flag what is happening across the world and especially in Europe by means of resolutions in plenary sittings.
We were strong in our stance against discrimination in Hungary. We intervened against Romania’s proposed law against gender identity education. We were and still are very vigilant on what is happening in Poland.
In her first ‘State of the European Union’ speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered criticism about Poland’s “LGBT free zones”. She said that LGBT free zones” are “humanity-free zones” that have no place in the European Union.
Von der Leyen pledged to build “a union of equality” and criticised European member states that watered down EU foreign policy messages on human rights. She made plain her disapproval of Poland’s right-wing nationalist government, which has often hit out at “LGBT ideology”, while a number of Polish towns declared themselves “LGBT-ideology free zones”.
I concur and echo von der Leyen’s statement: “Being yourself is not your ideology… It’s your identity, so I want to be crystal clear – LGBTQI-free zones are humanity-free zones. And they have no place in our union”.
We pride ourselves as our country is among the global leaders in human rights and in LGBTIQ+ rights. We have all the right to feel proud of the huge leaps our country made in the very recent years. I for one, am very proud.
Our role in the EP’s LGBTI Intergroup is precisely to monitor what goes around in Europe and the EU’s work in this field, as well as to reach out to civil society and empower it as much as we can. Work that the LGBTIQ+ community benefits from – including the local communities.
Let’s take pride week as an opportunity to first of all celebrate the great steps we have made. But also to promise ourselves that we will not stop here and we will keep on striving towards equality for everyone.