Malta: ‘I am allowed to determine what identity fits me best’

Friday, April 3, 2015
The Maltese Parliament adopted a new legislation banning unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children and recognizing trans people’s right to self-determination. Maltese LGBTI activist Ruth Baldacchino told what the new legislation brings about.
The Maltese Parliament voted unanimously on Wednesday for the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Law, making a historic moment for intersex and trans rights.
LGBTI activists celebrated the new law together with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister for Civil Liberties Helena Dalli. Maltese LGBTI activist, Co-Secretary General of ILGA World Ruth Baldacchino told what the law means for trans and intersex people.
The law recognizes trans people’s right to self-determination. The European Court of Human Rights also drew attention to the very right in the case of a Turkish trans man who could not get court permission needed for gender reassignment surgery. Can you tell us what the law brings about for trans people?
The new Maltese law recognizes that “gender identity” is a person’s “internal and individual experience of gender” and consequently establishes the right to gender identity. It also recognizes the “free development of the person according to their gender identity”. The importance of this is that it provides freedom to an individual to develop, establish and express their gender, rather than having the State or the medical professionals deciding that. In other words, I am allowed to determine what identity fits me best and how I want to embody that identity.
Malta is the first country to ban unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children. What will be the impact of the law on intersex rights for Malta and beyond?
I think the Maltese law is a huge step forward for Malta and beyond. The passing of the law sent out a message to the world, particularly to intersex people, that it is possible to put an end to normalizing and mutilating treatments and surgeries. It offered the opportunity to believe that we can change things. Now it’s up to us, as activists, to take this experience and use it strategically with institutions and governments to put a stop to normalizing surgeries on intersex minors. 
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