The Maltese parliament has unanimously voted in favour of a ground-breaking Gender identity law early April. The act offers an unprecedented broad recognition and protection to transgenders and people with an intersex condition.
“This ground-breaking Maltese law has become the international standard for legal protection of transgenders and people with an intersex condition. The Gender Identity Act secures the human rights of transgenders and people with an intersex condition and protects them against discrimination. The law applies to adults, but also contains express provisions to secure the rights of minors.
The law offers unique protection for people with an intersex condition by guaranteeing their ‘physical integrity and right for physical self-determination’. Babies and children are protected against unnecessary surgery to adjust their gender characteristics. It still regularly happens that doctors make physical adjustments to children with an intersex condition from one gender to the other without medical necessity, a phenomenon that is known as a ‘genital-normalising surgery.’
Such medical surgery will be illegal on Malta, until the person concerned will give his or her explicit permission. Parents will be able to leave the gender of their child open on the birth certificate up to the age of 14, when the child is old enough to have a say in the matter.
“With this new legislation, Malta is the first country in the world to protect children with an intersex condition against so-called ‘genital-normalizing surgeries’ and is setting a good example for the rest of the world,” COC president Tanja Ineke notes. On the basis of the Gender Identity Act, a sex-change operation or medical diagnoses is no longer a legal condition for the chosen gender identity on official documentation, such as the passport or ID card. Married people also no longer need to get divorced. Inhabitants of Malta will have the option not to have their sex or gender indicated on their passport or ID. Instead of ‘M’ or ‘F,’ an ‘X’ will take its place.
Also, undergoing a sex-change operation will become a valid reason to go on sick-leave. The law on hate crimes will be extended, making hate crimes against transgenders and people with an intersex condition punishable.
The new Maltese Gender Identity Act (in full: Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act - GIGESC Act) passed with unanimous support of both government and opposition parties in the House of Representatives. Prior to parliamentary scrutiny, the population, interest groups and experts were consulted extensively. The law will come into force after Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the president of Malta, will sign it.
At the seminar that was held in the parliament on the eve of the vote, Beyond The Binary, Equality For Trans, Genderqueer And Intersex, Prime Minster Joseph Muscat and Minister Helena Dalli of Civil Liberties also spoke. Dalli is responsible for the new Act. According to Dalli, the new act puts a stop to the ‘institutional discrimination’ by the state of transgenders, gender queers and people with an intersex condition. “I am proud of the fact that this act guarantees physical integrity and the right of self-determination,” the Minister notes. Prime Minster Muscat called the act ‘the highlight’ of the cabinet policy and an example of the ‘New Malta’ the government is working on.
In recent years, Malta has made a lot of progress when it comes to LGBT rights. April last year, a form of partnership registration for and adoption by same-sex couples was introduced. Also, a non-discrimination clause was included in the Constitution. In addition to this, the Maltese government has set up a LGBTIQ Consultative Council in which representatives of the LGBT movement and ministries consult each other on LGBT policy.