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Malta Prime Minister denounces Church paper for condoning gay conversion therapy

Malta Prime Minister denounces Church paper for condoning gay conversion therapy

Malta's Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat

The Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, has denounced a Church paper that indicated support for so-called gay conversion therapies in some instances.

In December it was announced that Malta may become the first country in Europe to officially ban therapies aimed at turning gay people straight. Such therapies have been widely criticized by psychotherapy bodies and the World Health Organization for not working and potentially causing gay people psychological harm.

The efforts to ban gay conversion therapy are supported by the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, and the ruling Labour Party.

A paper on the gay conversion bill, drawn up by a Church-appointed committee and published on the weekend, has caused controversy for appearing to sanction the practice of gay conversion, and saying that an outright ban would violate a person’s right to receive treatment if they desired it.

The paper has been put together by a team that includes former European Human Rights Court judge Giovanni Bonello and Law Faculty dean Kevin Aquilina. It concludes that the anti-gay-conversion Bill violated human rights because it afforded homosexuality superior status over heterosexuality, reports the Times of Malta.

Following criticism of the report, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna stated yesterday that he wanted people to read the report properly before jumping to conclusions, and saying that the paper did not support the notion of administering gay conversion therapy for someone unless that wanted it.

‘Any conversion therapy which forces people to go against their decisions or their life choices is just a no go and I want this to be absolutely clear.’

However, his clarification was not enough for the Prime Minister, who said today that he objected to the paper basic premise; that homosexuality was an illness that could be cured, or was similar to pedophilia and needed to be treated.

‘I am against the fundamental concept that equates homosexuality to illness or pedophilia,’ he said today to reporters in Mtarfa this morning.

The government announced its Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act in December, and held a subsequent public consultation in early January.

Besides the Prime Minister, the Church’s paper has also been condemned by LGBT groups in Malta.

Mark Josef Rapa, President of LGBTI youth group ‘We Are’, told the Malta Independent that his group were ‘very surprised’ by the Church’s paper and the controversy it had caused.

‘We did not expect the Church to come up with such a position. The Church still believes that one can be cured from homosexuality.

‘This law will seek to protect those individuals who are pushed into therapy; it does not place homosexuality on a higher ground as was claimed by the Church. The law does not criminalize a heterosexual person who wants to become gay, so we do not follow their arguments.’

The Malta Gay Rights Movement issued a statement calling the Church’s paper ‘profoundly flawed.’


Main image: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat by Aron Mifsud Bonnici licensed via CreativeCommon2.0