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Dr. Miriam Sciberras with her husband Mark at the Italian March for Life in Rome on May 4, 2014.Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews

When Malta’s recently elected socialist government introduced their Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics bill, they said it was to help a tiny minority gain “equality” under the law. But a pro-family group has said in fact it will open the door to abuse and suppression of the rights of parents, children, and all citizens who “do not accept the normalisation” of “same-sex” or “transgender marriage,” that is, of all faithful Catholics in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

The bill, backed by International Planned Parenthood Federation and a coalition of international “gender ideology” activists, says that all who live in Malta have a “right to the recognition of their gender identity” and to be treated according to their “self-determined” “gender identity.” 

With Malta being between 95 and 98 percent Catholic, the bill can be seen as a direct assault on the foundational Christian cultural tenets of Maltese society, says the pro-family group Life Network. They warn that it “does not respect children’s need for a mother and a father or the social institutions,” including Catholic adoption or assistance agencies, “that try to meet that need.”

Dr. Miriam Sciberras, the founder of Life Network, told LifeSiteNews that her organization is gravely concerned about the bill’s potential effect on the rights of young people, children and adolescents, and their parents. In a submission to the government’s consultation, Life Network said the bill “may seem to apply to a minority group,” but its larger implications “will affect the whole population.”

They cite examples where similar legislation has led to “attacks on the right to religious tolerance,” such as arrests of Christian home-schooling families in Germany and children from Christian homes being taken into custody by state social workers for refusing to go along with the state-sponsored “gender” and sex-education programs. Though Malta is a nation of Catholics where nearly half the population goes to Mass every Sunday, the bill contains no exemption for the Church to decline to hire “transsexuals,” even as ordained clergy.

And the fines for refusing to go along with the gender ideology orthodoxy are stiff: “not less than €1000 and not exceeding €5000” will be levied against “whosoever shall knowingly expose any person who has availed [himself] of the provisions of Act, or shall insult or revile a person.”

“Will comprehensive sex education become mandatory? Will parents be allowed to opt out for their children, or will they be silenced, coerced, or even imprisoned, as we have seen happening in other countries?” the group asks.

If passed, the submission warns the bill will open Malta up to the full range of coercive practices in schools and families that are becoming common across the western world, and especially in northern Europe. If passed, they said, children will be “bombarded with presentations of all sorts of different sexual relationships from an early age, and eventually encouraged to choose.”  

“Any attempts by parents to teach their children about the traditional heterosexual marriage, based on biology and on children’s real needs, will suffer the full brunt of the law. This goes against the fundamental human right to family life, which right is supposed to be exercised and enjoyed without undue interference from the state.”

“Parents who were morally opposed to gender mainstreaming have been incarcerated and penalised for trying to protect their children.”

Life Network’s submission particularly focuses on the impact of the bill’s provisions to allow adolescents to determine, without any intervention from either parents or psychiatric professionals, whether they wish to change their “gender.”

“Adolescence is one of the most difficult phases of the life cycle of human beings,” the group told the government’s panel. Young people, they said, naturally go through “different stages” in how they understand their body, and the proposed law could add to the confusion and difficulty.

“Helping children and young people to mature should be a matter of helping them understand and appreciate their body and physical sex, rather than seeing their body as something ‘wrong’ which needs to be ‘corrected’ or ‘rectified’ through surgery.”

The bill refers to the “right to bodily integrity” of young people, but Life Network says it “does not uphold the right to bodily integrity in practice where a child’s physical sex is unambiguous, but the child is experiencing difficulty in coming to terms with it.” 

They called instead for a “holistic approach” to help “address the diverse needs of the child during such a traumatic and vulnerable time,” adding that it is “always questionable” to respond to “gender dysphoria to agree with the person that his or her physical sex needs ‘correction’ or ‘masking’ by dress.”

“Those under 18 in particular should be protected from well-meaning attempts of parents or doctors to ‘correct’ what does not in fact need correction…rather than addressing the young person’s emotions in themselves,” they said.  

The bill even contains provisions allowing an “interdisciplinary team” of professionals, including social workers, to impose “gender reassignment” without the minor person’s consent “in exceptional circumstances.”

Such “treatment may be effected once there is an agreement between the Interdisciplinary Team and the persons exercising parental authority or tutor of the minor who is still unable to provide consent,” the bill says.

But the Life Network object that this is a basic violation of a child’s rights as they are determined in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The so-called “gender reassignment” of healthy children could be found to be in violation of the articles on the child’s right to “preserve his or her identity,” and another on the right of a child to “protection from physical injury” and from “inhuman or degrading treatment.” 

The bill leaves the designation of “transsexual” or “transgender” up to what legal experts call a “subjective test,” regardless of any external physical or even psychological signifier. The “person shall not be required to provide proof of a surgical procedure for total or partial genital reassignment, hormonal therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment to make use of the right to gender identity.”

The bill’s definition of “gender identity” is given as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender.” It adds that this “self-determined” identity “may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance and, or functions by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including name, dress, speech and mannerisms.”

Life Network calls into question the whole concept of subjective “self-determination,” a foundational concept for the gender movement, asking, “Why should one be permitted to change one’s gender on the basis of one’s ‘experience of gender’, but not one’s birth date if one feels that one ‘should’ be a different age?”

They point to practical difficulties the “self-determination” rule may tend to create on the ground. “What happens if there is a change in gender in the period between committing a crime and being charged for it?

“Would the charge be considered null and void, because the particulars do not correspond to the particulars listed on the charge?” they ask.

They add that it could cause difficulty with law enforcement and public security: “What happens if the gender chosen does not correspond to the person’s bodily appearance? Is this safe or even legal? The law will demand new practices in the identification of people.”

“What happens at airport security if there is a mismatch? Will the police be allowed to investigate? What about international security?”

Life Network is especially concerned about the bill’s impact on the freedom of expression of Maltese people who disagree with its tenets, including the freedom of the Catholic Church that categorically rejects the entire ideological premise of “gender theory.”

The bill declares that, “Every norm, regulation or procedure shall respect the right to gender identity. No norm or regulation or procedure may limit, restrict, or annul the exercise of the right to gender identity, and all norms must always be interpreted and enforced in a manner that favours access to this right.”

But Life Network asks, “What if institutions are called on to explain why a particular person is considered male or female by them and therefore not suitable for a position reserved to one or other sex (such as the priesthood in the case of the Catholic Church)?”   

Read the full text of Life Network’s submission.