A 16-year-old lesbian was sitting on a bench with her girlfriend in Ħamrun when two young men attacked her and dragged her by her hair because of her sexual orientation.

I’ve accepted her, our family has accepted her, but some people just don’t want to

“It was a horrible experience... All of a sudden one of the boys picked me up and punched me in my eye... He grabbed my breasts then head-butted my nose and threw me onto the ground, grabbed my hair and pulled me across the ground,” Amy* told The Sunday Times.

The petite teenager ended up at a health centre with a fractured nose, the right side of her face was grazed and she had fingerprint-sized bruises on her breasts.

Her girlfriend, who was also attacked, got away with a bruise to the head and scratches on her wrists which she sustained when pushed to the ground.

The incident happened on January 13 at about 7.30 p.m. Amy – who preferred not to be identified – went to a Ħamrun square with her girlfriend and another two female friends.

The two friends were dancing in a gazebo and Amy and her girlfriend were sitting on a bench when two brothers, about 17 and 19 years old, came out onto a nearby balcony and started hurling insults at them.

“They said we were twisted,” Amy’sgirlfriend said.

The girls retaliated and shouted back at the boys. Suddenly, the younger boy turned up in the square.

“He said he was not scared to hit girls... I told him to go away,” Amy said. But the boy hit her girlfriend and pushed her to the ground.

The 19-year-old boy picked her up, punching her, and dragging her from the hair. The whole event lasted about 10 minutes and ended when a relative of the girls turned up and called the police.

When the police arrived they went into the boys’ apartment and spoke to them but no arrests were made, Amy’s mother said.

It is not clear whether the boys will be taken to court since questions sentto the police on Thursday remained unanswered.

This was not the first time the girls had seen the boys at the square. One day the boys even threw eggs at the girls because of their sexuality but they ignored them and it ended there.

Amy recounted it was not easy for her at first to understand her sexuality and to break it to her family.

“I started having such feelings when I was in Form One... I always had those doubts,” she said.

Amy’s mother accepted her daughter immediately. “I’ve accepted her, our family has accepted her but some people just don’t want to... When school got wind ofit, it was hassle after hassle... Some teachers used to pick on her and bring up her sexuality,” she said.

The mother spoke about the importance of accepting people as they are. “Her (Amy’s) previous girlfriend’s parents are not accepting it. The poor girl is still seeing a therapist because they will not accept it.”

Gabi Calleja from the Malta Gay Rights Movement condemned the act saying it was very unfortunate that in today’s society sexual orientation could lead to hate crime.

*Not her real name

Trail of violence

• One in every 10 gay people is subjected to some form of violence because of their sexual orientation, according to a 2003 study carried out by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

• This was backed by a 2008 study that showed that eight per cent of gay people had been attacked in the previous two years and half of these said it happened more than once. Two-thirds were young women.

• The only legal protection gay people have refers to discrimination in terms of harassment. The law protects anyone from actions that amount to threats, violence and harassment.

• The part of the law that speaks about hate crime is limited to racial hatred. Last year the Justice Minister announced there were plans to extend this to include homophobia.

Organisations deplore attack

The Malta Gay Rights Movement, Aditus, Drachma, We Are, Alternattiva Demokratika and the Moviment Zghazagh Partit Nazzjonalista condemned the attack.

In a joint statement that MGRM and Aditus also expressed concern at the victim's mother statements on difficulties and harassment experienced by the daughter in school when her sexual orientation became known.

"We urge the Department of Educational Services to investigate such claims and reiterate once again the need to introduce clear policies and guidelines that protect LGBT students and staff from harassment and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression."

Drachma called for stronger action against homophobic remarks and appealed to the Maltese and Christians to stand up in defence of victims suffering harassment and violence, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

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