Malta PM urges Commonwealth countries to ditch Colonial-era anti-gay laws
The Prime Minister of Malta has urged Commonwealth countries to throw out their archaic Colonial-era anti-LGBT laws.
Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat was speaking at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey, attended by the Queen and a number of other world leaders.
In his address, Mr Muscat, currently the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, alluded to the high number of Commonwealth countries that continue to enforce penal codes that were introduced under the British Empire and never repealed.
In total 40 out of the 53 Commonwealth member states still criminalise homosexuality – from India to Barbados, Sri Lanka to Tonga.
Speaking about the need for tolerance, Mr Muscat said: “I want to single out the respect for LGBTIQ persons, the lack of it. The remarkable number of our countries [with anti-LGBT laws] is, arguably, a considerable blot on our family of nations’ standing.
“I had conversations and am aware that there are leaders who know that things must change, but are wary of how society will react to their first move.
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“To them, I said and I say, that the Commonwealth will be with them to help make their first steps. History, I am sure, will judge them positively when they do so.”
He also issued a warning that “individuals who do not value the dignity of others… stand to fuse into multitudes that make up the mass base of extremist movements”.
In an interview, Ms Muscat elaborated on his comments.
He said: “There is a lot to be done… there are some countries where respect of minorities is not on the level we would like it to be.
“The key is engagement, and understanding, and trying to show that if you do the right thing, it’s never too late.”
Malta has made a number of progressive reforms on LGBT issues in recent years, outlawing ‘gay cure’ therapy and passing progressive reforms for transgender and intersex people.
The country, once seen as conservative, has also wholeheartedly embraced same-sex civil unions, while plans for equal marriage are also under discussion, with Mr Muscat’s support.