News of Malta’s gay conversion therapy ban was reported all over the world this week, with a lot of the coverage focusing on the leap forward the country has taken in LGBT rights. But one piece, published yesterday on the BBC News website, has caused a stir with local Facebook users. Its subject – Malta’s position on abortion.
The article, titled Malta’s paradox: A beacon of gay rights that bans abortion, makes mention of the country’s development in social and sexual rights laws, taking readers through a timeline of Malta’s recent changes. The legalisation of divorce, same-sex civil unions and adoptions, the ban on invasive surgery on intersex people, and of course, the gay conversion therapy ban are cited as “sweeping changes” that have taken place in under ten years.
It investigates the lead up to the foray of changes in the law, looking both at public influence and the position of the church. Yet the most salient question pointed to the issue of abortion, the fact that Malta is now the only EU country where abortion is banned, and why Maltese laws surrounding it remain so strict.
Journalist Herman Grech provided insight into how the Maltese public has played a major role in catalysing the recent legal changes. He claims the country’s public decision on the issue of divorce to be a defining moment in our recent history – representing the first major counterpoint to the nation’s traditional staunchly Catholic stance.
Malta’s entry into the European Union (EU) and the country’s active use of social media are also looked into as drivers for how public opinion has developed over recent years in Malta.
Francesca Fenech Conti, a Maltese women’s rights campaigner, also gave her comments on the rousing of public opinion and its sway on governmental decisions:
“There will be changes soon – that we are even having this conversation is evidence. […] I’m in touch with campaigners in Ireland and Poland [where campaigners are challenging abortion laws]. It will happen.”
Fenech Conti’s comments were met with a strong reaction on Facebook by Malta’s pro-life organisation Gift of Life Malta.
So is the BBC on to something? And as Grech and Fenech Conti predict – will the national debate on abortion become impossible to ignore by the government? The article has already elicited impassioned responses on social media. If that’s anything to go by, it could mean that this discussion is only just starting.