April 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Maltese lawmakers approve ‘cutting-edge’ gender identity bill

Malta, gay news, Washington Blade

Maltese lawmakers on April 1, 2015, unanimously approved a “cutting-edge” gender rights bill. (Photo public domain)

Maltese lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved what LGBT rights advocates are applauding as one of the world’s most comprehensive gender identity bills.

The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act states that a person “shall not be required to provide proof” of sex-reassignment surgery, or having undergone hormone therapy or “any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment to make use of the right to gender identity” in order to legally change their name or gender.

The proposal would also extend sweeping legal protections to intersex children.

“It shall not be lawful for medical practitioners or other professionals to conduct any sex assignment treatment and, or surgical intervention on the sex characteristics of a minor which treatment and, or intervention can be deferred until the person to be treated can provide informed consent,” it reads.

The measure further states that all Maltese citizens or those who “habitually” live in the small island nation south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea have the right to “the recognition of their gender identity” and “the free development of their person according to their gender identity.”

Malta Gay Rights Movement, a local LGBT advocacy group, celebrated the bill’s passage on its Twitter page.

Ruth Baldacchino, a Maltese LGBT rights advocate who is co-secretary general of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, is among those who attended a celebration with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat after parliamentarians approved the bill.

“Malta’s new law is really the cutting-edge of human rights legislation in the fight to fully recognize the rights of trans, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “Crucially, Malta’s new law protects intersex infants from unnecessary surgeries to ‘normalize’ their bodies.”

Alecs Recher, co-chair of Transgender Europe, a European trans advocacy group, in a statement said the Maltese law “sets a new benchmark for Europe.”

“We are thrilled about the respectful, comprehensive and yet practical aspirations of this new Maltese act,” said Recher.

Denmark last September became the first European country to allow trans people to legally change their gender without undergoing medical and psychological treatment. A Dutch law that allows trans people to legally change their gender without becoming sterilized and having undergone sex-reassignment surgery took effect last July, but they still need to obtain a statement from an “expert” to fulfill their request.

Mexico City lawmakers last November approved a bill that allows trans people to legally change their gender without a court order. Argentina and Uruguay have enacted similar measures in recent years.

Cuba has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries under the country’s national health care system since 2008, but critics of the island’s Communist government maintain that only a few dozen trans Cubans have been able to undergo the procedure.

Arsham Parsi, an Iranian LGBT rights advocate who now lives in Canada, told the Washington Blade last June during an interview in D.C. that his homeland’s government encourages trans people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery by offering them financial assistance and other incentives. He said roughly half of those who have undergone the procedure were not trans, but gay.

German parents since November 2013 have been able to designate the gender on their intersex children’s birth certificates as “indeterminate.”

Maltese lawmakers last April approved a bill that allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions and jointly adopt children.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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