ShoutOut goes to Malta!
Last week ShoutOut Managing Director, Bella, joined the staff of Cara Friend to go to Malta on a study trip. Cara Friend is ShoutOut's partners in Northern Ireland, they offer ShoutOut workshops as part of their safe schools' programme. We were all very excited to go to Malta, where some of the best legal recognition and protections for LGBTQIA+ people can be found.
A bit about Malta
Malta has an interesting history when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights. Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised in 1973, a full 20 years before Ireland. It is currently ranked 1st by ILGA out of 49 European countries for LGBT rights.
Malta has some of the best protections against discrimination. It was the first country in the world to outlaw sterilisation and invasive surgery on intersex people in 2015. In 2014 it was the first European state to add recognition of gender identity into their constitution as a protective measure. Malta's gender recognition laws are based on self-declaration like Ireland. In 2016 the law was amended to allow 16-year-olds to have their gender recognised without parental consent. Malta has had marriage equality in September 2017.
Still, as we know from our own journey, legal equality doesn't mean social equality. There is still an outright ban of MSM donating blood. And according to a recent survey, only 40% of people felt comfortable being out in the workplace.
Our first meeting was with Clayton Mercieca, who heads up Allied Rainbow Communities, the organisation which puts on Pride in Malta, among many other activities such as networking and campaigning! Pride has grown a lot in Malta over the years; 2 years there were 1000 attendees, and last year it was 2500 attendees. We're very sad we didn't correlate our trip with Pride! Clayton told us the majority of schools in Malta are secular, whereas in Ireland the majority of schools are run by religious organisations. Things may be great on paper for Malta, however, mental health among the LGBTQIA+ community is still a problem which the community as working hard on at the moment.
Our next meeting was with Drachma, a Catholic LGBTQIA+ organisation. Drachma has two main branches: the LGBTQIA+ branch and the Parents branch. We met with Chris who heads up the LGBTQIA+ branch and Joe who works on the parent's branch. They work hard in Malta and also are apart of international organisations: Christian LGBT network and a European network for parents.
It was incredible to hear of the work they have done to create an inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ people and parents within the church, as there are of course LGBTQIA+ people of all faiths and none.
As well as meeting groups in Malta, the trip allowed some quality bonding time with our colleagues in Cara Friend! ShoutOut delivered 108 student workshops in schools in Northern Ireland in the last school year, all given by Cara Friend staff, who are trained by ShoutOut. It was amazing to hear of the incredible youth work, training and advocacy being done by all at Cara Friend!
Hopefully, we'll get to welcome our queer Malta siblings to Ireland one day in the future!