After building a reputation as the best place in Europe to be LGBTQIA+, it came as no surprise when Malta was awarded the right to host this year’s EuroPride celebrations. Its government has introduced an array of progressive laws and protections, ranging from the legalisation of same-sex marriage to IVF access for lesbian couples and single persons. “While we have made remarkable progress, it is essential to hold events like EuroPride to serve as a reminder that even in welcoming countries, we must remain vigilant and proactive in promoting and safeguarding LGBTQIA+ rights,” Rebecca Buttigieg, the country’s Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality, told GAY TIMES at the height of this year’s celebrations. “Civil rights must never be taken for granted. EuroPride sends a powerful message that we must not rest on our laurels but continue to celebrate diversity, challenge discrimination, and inspire change.”
The theme of EuroPride Valletta 2023, ‘Equality from the Heart’, aimed to bring the Maltese and wider European LGBTQIA+ community together in Malta to celebrate diversity and advocate for equal rights and a more inclusive world. “We aim to demonstrate that positive change can be achieved when communities come together to celebrate diversity, educate, and advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Buttigieg explained. “We want attendees to leave with a renewed sense of purpose, empowered to contribute to positive change in their own countries and regions.”
Themes of pinkwashing vs. authentic allyship, sex work, faith and LGBTQIA+ inclusion were at the forefront of discussions around human rights at EuroPride, while those taking part in the march called on the government to continue implementing policies that would better the lives of those in the community. Buttigieg acknowledged that despite the “significant strides” made in Malta, “there is always more work to be done”. Here, she tells GAY TIMES about what she would like to see achieved next and the “profound significance” of Malta hosting EuroPride.
What does hosting EuroPride in Malta mean to you and your government?
Hosting EuroPride in Malta holds profound significance for both our government and myself personally but most importantly for the community as it symbolises our unwavering commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion. It provides a platform to showcase our nation’s dedication to LGBTQIA+ rights on a global stage and reinforces our belief in the fundamental principles of human rights and equality for all. It also underscores our commitment to fostering an environment where LGBTQIA+ individuals can thrive, free from discrimination and prejudice.
What has the reaction to it been like so far?
The reaction to EuroPride Valletta 2023 has been overwhelmingly positive and heartening. It has garnered immense support from not only the LGBTQIA+ community but also from various segments of Maltese society, including civil society, businesses, as well as public institutions. The enthusiastic response reflects the inclusive spirit that permeates our nation and reinforces the message that equality and diversity are values deeply rooted in Maltese society.
Malta has been declared the best place to be LGBTQIA+ in Europe by ILGA-Europe for the last eight years running. Why do you think holding events such as EuroPride continues to be so important, even in countries that are recognised as being welcoming for queer people?
Malta’s consistent recognition as the best ranking for LGBTQIA+ protections in Europe by ILGA-Europe is a testament to our ongoing commitment to fostering an inclusive society. While we have made remarkable progress, it is essential to hold events like EuroPride to serve as a reminder that even in welcoming countries, we must remain vigilant and proactive in promoting and safeguarding LGBTQIA+ rights. Civil rights must never be taken for granted. EuroPride sends a powerful message that we must not rest on our laurels but continue to celebrate diversity, challenge discrimination, and inspire change.
One of the goals of EuroPride Valletta 2023 is to inspire change across Europe. Are there any specific things you hope attendees take away from the experience?
One of the primary goals of EuroPride Valletta 2023 is indeed to inspire change across Europe and the Mediterranean Region. We hope that attendees take away the understanding that progress is possible through unity and advocacy. We aim to demonstrate that positive change can be achieved when communities come together to celebrate diversity, educate, and advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals. We want attendees to leave with a renewed sense of purpose, empowered to contribute to positive change in their own countries and regions.
Although Malta has made a number of impressive advances when it comes to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, there is always more work to be done. What would you like to see achieved over the next 12 months?
While Malta has made significant strides in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, we recognise that there is always more work to be done. Over the next 12 months, we aim to focus on enhancing awareness and education about LGBTQIA+ issues in our education system, workplace inclusion, and healthcare services. We also plan to continue collaborating with civil society organisations to address any remaining gaps in legal protections and support systems, ensuring that LGBTQIA+ individuals in Malta can fully enjoy their rights and live authentically without fear of discrimination. Moreover, we are committed to invest furthermore in educational campaigns to combat hate speech and misinformation. Our goal is not just to maintain but also strengthen our position as leaders in LGBTQIA+ rights in Europe.