Let’s celebrate diversity | Reb Xiberras

17 May marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia - a notion first conveived in 2004

Today is the day we realise that there are still 72 states in the world that still criminalise same sex acts. Eight still include death sentences.

Today is the day we realise that out of 204 states same sex marriage is only accepted in 24 of them.

Today is the day when we realise that even with our progressive laws, someone out there is still calling the other “pufta”.

17 May marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The notion of this idea was first conceived in 2004 and following discussions with several important organisations such as the International lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex Association (ILGA), the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the World Congress of LGBT Jews, and the Coalition of African Lesbians, a campaign was run for a whole year leading up till 17 May 2005. This was when all federations mentioned above signed to approve the IDAHO proposal.

This day is quite prominent in Europe and is celebrated by various events in several countries. An IDAHOT forum is also organised annually, with the 6th edition happening this year in Lisbon, Portugal.

So, why is this day important? Because it commemorates all of the civil rights activists that brought change in society but, more importantly, creates discussions with policymakers, communities, mass media and the general public by bringing awareness of the discrimination and prejudice queer communities still encounter nowadays.     

This day presents us with the facts: there are still people in our country who are frowned upon because they hold hands with a same sex partner, who are ridiculed at work for asking to be addressed with the right pronoun or bullied at school because they act in a “different way”. This day builds within us the courage to act when another person is being stripped of their rights or simply their dignity because of who they are.

This does not come only from people in the queer community but also allies and therefore for this day the organisation LGBTI+ Gozo approached different celebrities to take part in the #WeStand campaign. The celebrities were asked to take a picture with the #WeStand banner and describe what diversity means to them. This was done with the aim to raise awareness that diversity is not something that hinders society but rather improves it.

The public can now see that rather than fearing change we can welcome it. However, the campaign also aims to create discussions amongst the public and other stakeholders. This is because our country has made progress with regards to laws and policies but we still need to continue working towards a more respectful society.

It is a shame to pass certain laws and yet find resistance from certain ministries or institutions that resist those very laws.    

In fact in the IDAHOT Forum that was mentioned above, IGLYO will be presenting a report that showcases that out of the 49 countries reviewed; currently there are only four that provide measures with regards to LGBTIQ inclusion in schools. Malta happens to be one of these countries.

By contrast, eleven countries have failed to implement any measure at the time of conducting this research and two have made international commitments without implementing any other measures.

However, even if Malta has also introduced mandatory pre-service teacher training, this has not been extended to teachers who are currently practising. These are also teachers who are in the classroom leaving an impact on the generations of tomorrow. Therefore these teachers should also be trained to be equipped on how to deal with certain situations without creating any unnecessary damage.

Other areas such as sport, medicine and leisure are also being addressed in the consultative committee, which gives a hope towards a better tomorrow. Yet, decisions without consultations or judgments adopted without feedback can only lead to worse situations. Therefore we as a society should all come together on this day and re-evaluate where we stand.

This day symbolises that we, as members of society, all have our differences, are all made of strengths and weaknesses, but no matter what your background is we should all embrace, share and celebrate our diversity!

 

Reb Xiberras is Secretary General of LGBTI+ Gozo

Member organisations of the National Youth Council (KNZ) have been invited to submit opinion articles on topics affecting youths today, to its member organisations. The contents of the article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Council.

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