ERG/AOP says Equality Ministry ‘has stagnated’

Samantha Sacramento, MP, Minister for Equality and Justice

‘Brexit and the Covid pandemic were valid reasons for delay in their day but, by now, have become worn-out excuses for stagnation in equality and justice in Gibraltar’, Equality Rights Group (ERG)/Action on Poverty (AOP) Chairman, Felix Alvarez, said today.

‘With nothing less than a full five year delay so far under the Ministry of Equality’s watch with regards to provisions to make access and accessibility a reality for the disabled in our community being just one particularly evident sign of bogging down in the equality agenda today in Gibraltar. The question is whether this year’s recent pre-Election promise to bring disability legislation to final fruition can be believed. Or will they again, as with the trumpeting in 2017 of the fatally flawed Disability Act which omitted the most crucial of provisions for the disabled of access and accessibility, find a formula to repeat the fudge and let down the disabled community for another five years?

‘And yet the deficit in the equality agenda goes on: another striking silence on the part of the Ministry is the total absence of any commitment to equality and justice when it comes to people facing poverty and hardship in our community. Poverty and hardship amidst a cost of living crisis that strikes at the very heart of the rights of women, men, children and people of all ages. Yet we have not heard a peep from the Equality Minister in all the years ERG/AOP’s campaign on poverty and the live social debate it has generated has been prominent in the community and media.

‘But still the deficits continue: this time with regard to rights for the LGBT+ community.

‘Because at the beginning of last April, ERG/AOP issued a public statement, backed up with a letter to the Chief Minister, in which we raised the issue of the unacceptable practice of what is known as ‘conversion therapy’. This practice, masquerading as a valid ‘therapy’ but, in reality, consisting of little more than emotional pressure and false hope usually targeted at times of psychological weakness, has for too long been used to cajole and push LGBT+ individuals to believe, against overwhelming scientific evidence, that they can radically alter their sexual orientation.

‘There is no reputable professional body in the world today that will advocate or support approaches used to convince against or deny a person’s sexual orientation. The results, testified over many years, are nothing if not detrimental and, at times, tragic. Persons experiencing distress concerning their sexuality should only be counselled by qualified professionals. No one else has the right to meddle with a person’s health and must be held to account when they do.

‘Following the public raising of our call to bring changes to Gibraltar law in early April this year, which would outlaw such practices (and pertinent cases have indeed been brought to attention here in Gibraltar), we were happy to read the following day that the Minister for Equality claimed to be engaged on a draft Bill to this end, adding that she was ‘proud that this Government is already working to introduce legislation to prohibit the practice’.

‘The same ministerial statement went on to inform us that the aim was ‘to publish before the summer’.

‘We regret to find that Summer has faded into Autumn, and that Winter will be upon us within days, but with zero signs of progress. We ask: how many seasons does the Minister now aim for the LGBT+ community of Gibraltar to wait? And why has the Minister not informed the public as to the reasons for this more-than-disappointing delay on a Bill that it is supposed was already being worked on over eight months ago?

‘While dialogue may not be easy at times, it is always a positive tool in advancing understanding and creating solutions; instead of arriving at moments of incomprehension such as these.

‘Finally, ERG/AOP encourages any LGBT+ person facing untoward negative pressure from any quarter whatsoever regarding their sexual orientation to report the matter to us. LGBT+ Christians may also confidentially contact ‘FAITH’, an independent, dedicated and supportive ERG project with a strictly non-political mission which is published Tuesdays and Thursdays in the advertisement pages of the Chronicle and where contact phone and email details are provided,’ Mr. Alvarez ended.