Malta still ranks number one in Europe for LGBTIQ protection and human rights, but has seen its overall score drop for allowing an equality strategy and action plan to lapse and having limited recognition for non-binary people.

While last year Malta placed first on the ILGA Europe index with a score of 93.78%, which decreased to 89% this year. The index score grades European countries based on how the laws and policies impact the lives of LGBTIQ people, taking into account several indicators including equality, family issues, hate speech, legal gender recognition, freedom of expression and asylum rights.

A spokesperson for ILGA Europe told Times of Malta that while Malta had received a bump in its score after the Health Ministry announced that men who have sex with men are now able to donate blood. But points had been deducted because the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy & Action Plan for 2018 to 2022 has expired and not yet been renewed and because recognition for non-binary people was still only available on passports.

The spokesperson added that ILGA Europe had been informed by local partners that the government has plans to launch a new strategy on May 17 and is also working on broadening non-binary markers, with a consultation with non-binary people having taken place earlier this year.

The spokesperson explained that ILGA Europe scores countries for non-binary recognition if more than two gender marker options are available on the public registry and are not applied to anyone without their consent and is available to anyone who seeks it without discrimination. This can also be achieved if recording a gender marker in the public registry is not mandatory.

One practical way of expanding non-binary recognition, the spokesperson added, would be to make non-binary markers available on birth certificates or identity cards.

There was still a 13 percentage point gap between Malta and the next-ranked countries on the list, which were Belgium and Denmark at 76% and followed by Spain in third place at 74%. Azerbaijan remained the lowest-ranked country in Europe with a score of 2%, followed by Turkey at 4% and Russia and Armenia at 8%.

The parliamentary secretary for equality, Rebecca Buttigieg in a statement welcomed the survey rankings and said the government would continue to work for equality for all, in collaboration with the social partners and civil society. 

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