The latest in a line of progressive LGBTQ+ rights legislation, the measures were pledged by Prime Minister Robert Abela.
As part of a bigger package of LGBTQ+-focused changes, Malta’s prime minister earlier this month announced intentions to make gender-affirming procedures free for Maltese residents. For its progressive attitude on LGBTQ+ issues, the small European nation is already well-known.
On September 10, at Malta’s Pride March in the nation’s capital, Valletta, Prime Minister Robert Abela made the forthcoming reforms official.
Trans persons in Malta will soon have access to gender-affirming surgery through the government-funded health system, according to a speech by Abela. However, the exact implementation schedule and procedures that will be covered have not yet been revealed.
As published by the Maltese website Lovin Malta, Abela stated on ONE Radio, “I believe that social change provides the Labour Party its identity. Despite the fact that we have made significant progress, there is still more to be done, as evidenced by my participation yesterday along with those of ministers and MPs.
At the parade, Abela reaffirmed his administration’s dedication to developing a five-year plan for the nation’s LGBTQ+ population as well as a coordinated system for services to the LGBTQ+ community’s needs in the public and social spheres.
The provision of free gender-affirming procedures was a part of Abela’s party’s electoral program, according to the Times of Malta, and this most recent statement comes just over a week after another component of the plan was realized. Malta overturned its prohibition on queer males donating blood on September 2 at the start of Pride Week, a move that MPs had worked toward for the previous ten years. Abela referred to the modification as just another step toward “more just protocols” that work to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in a Facebook post announcing the change.
Malta’s parliamentarians were renowned for their progressive views on LGBTQ+ matters even before these most recent legal developments. As of 2014, it was the first nation in the world to provide protection for gender identity in its constitution.
A prohibition on conversion treatment was enacted in it for the first time in Europe two years later. The Rainbow Europe List, which evaluates nations based on how their laws and policies affect the lives of LGBTQ+ persons based on variables including equality, family issues, hate speech, legal gender recognition, freedom of expression, and refugee rights, presently places Malta at the top.
Even with this continued trend toward more fairness, not all policymakers in Malta are jubilant with the current announcement. Abela was condemned by Maltese Nationalist Party MP Alex Borg for choosing to fund transgender healthcare before treating other health issues in response to Abela’s pledges made at the Pride March.
Borg stated in a post that “We need to be realistic.” “It’s great that there is funding for free sex-reassignment surgery, but how come there isn’t funding to treat and cure fibromyalgia?” Fibromyalgia sufferers must be the “first individuals” to receive support, he made a point of saying.
A number of advocacy organizations and other decision-makers swiftly attacked Borg’s position. Borg’s remarks were criticized by the LGBTQ+ group Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) as “whataboutism,” or basing an argument on a wholly unrelated topic.
Why is it believed that the LGBTQ+ community won’t be pleased if fibromyalgia therapy is provided without charge? asked MGRM in a post. Also, why is it believed that patients with fibromyalgia are unhappy that gender-reassignment therapy would be provided at no cost?
Borg was addressed by Rebecca Buttigieg, the equality parliamentary secretary for Malta. The prime minister’s pledge, according to her, is “meant to give more help to trans individuals who are suffering through hardship, something you plainly have yet to grasp.” She went on to say that support for the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t negate other government assistance and charged Borg of using Malta’s Pride Week for “political goals” rather than a commitment to equality.
In spite of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) assertion that gender-affirming procedures are occasionally “medically essential therapies to allay gender dysphoria,” research has revealed that high prices are frequently a significant obstacle. When trans and gender nonconforming people can obtain the operations they want, their well-being “undeniably” improves, according to WPATH.
If Abela’s pledge materializes, Malta will join a select group of nations that offer full or partial support for gender-affirming procedures, including Argentina, Denmark, and several regions of Canada.