Maltese gay rights activists ask government to extend hate crime legislation to include violence against LGBT people
The Malta Gay Rights Movement calls for gay hate crime to be included in Maltese law following the assault of a 16-year-old lesbian and her girlfriend in Hamrun.
On 13 January, the teenager was admitted to a health centre with a fractured nose, facial grazing and bruised breasts after being attacked by two teenage boys in a public park.
The teen, who preferred not to be identified, told Malta's Sunday Times: 'It was a horrible experience… All of a sudden one of the boys picked me up and punched me in my eye.
'He grabbed my breasts then head-butted my nose and threw me onto the ground, grabbed my hair and pulled me across the ground.'
Her girlfriend sustained injuries to the head and to her wrists.
The assault, which lasted for roughly 10 minutes only ended after a relative of the girls turned up and called the police.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement and the human rights lobby Aditus 'strongly condemn' the assuault, saying in a joint statement:
'In many countries, such an assault would be investigated as a hate crime but Malta has yet to extend hate crime legislation to include the grounds of homophobia and transphobia.
'Violence on lesbian, gay and trans people is not an uncommon occurrence although most incidents do not get reported to the police or featured in newspapers. Trust in the police force is an essential factor in encouraging and enabling LGBT victims to come forward and report such crimes.'
The police have since issued formal charges to the assailants, who are due to appear in court for assault and causing injury.
Currently, the only legal protection which gay and lesbian people have in Malta refers to discrimination in terms of harassment, hate crimes are limited to racial hatred.
The University of Malta LGBT Society – We Are, has also urged action: 'We recognize the difficulties young LGBT persons face when coming out and trying to be accepted at school and work. Homophobic and transphobic bullying can be upsetting and difficult to deal with. We Are believes that nobody has to put up with any kind of bullying and encourages young LGBT persons to report these incidents and seek help when needed.'
A Facebook group called The AMY Initiative has also been set up in response to the attack, calling for Malta to change the hate crime laws to include crimes against people due to their sexual orientation.