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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Pro Life Malta Accused of Torture



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I had an article in the Weekly Standard last week warning that the international ruling class wants to “define torture down” to include mere policy differences with those favored by the Cultural Left–particularly around abortion, transgender issues, “sex workers,” drug use, and the like.  

Now, almost on cue, the International Commission of Jurists castigates Malta (of all places) for purported human rights abuses based on precisely such policy differences. First, Malta is pro life!. From the ICJ Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Malta

Malta’s Criminal Code prohibits the termination of pregnancy, specifying that both women who procure miscarriages and medical professionals who perform or assist them may be held criminally responsible. The terms of the law do not envisage any exception and as a result even abortion for therapeutic purposes, such as to save the life of a pregnant woman, is subject to this prohibition. These provisions undermine Malta’s compliance with its obligations to ensure women’s enjoyment of the rights to life and highest attainable standard of health, and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention against Torture. 

One can disagree with pro life laws, but torture and inhuman treatment? No. 

Also, Malta doesn’t let transgenders marry!

Under Maltese law, transgender individuals are not permitted to marry their opposite sex partners.41 In May 2011, the Constitutional Court affirmed the decision of the Director of Public Registry that a woman named Joanne Cassar, who was identified male at birth but had subsequently undergone gender reassignment and had changed her sex in her birth certificate, could not marry her boyfriend. The Court ruled that Joanne Cassar could not legally be considered a woman for purposes of marriage. The Constitutional Court thus rejected the applicability of Goodwin v United Kingdom, in which the European Court of Human Rights had held that States must recognize a change of gender identity and protect the right to marry for individuals who have changed their gender. 

Again, one can think such a law is wrongheaded, un-empathetic even. But heterodox social policies should not be conflated with most profound human rights abuses, such as disappearing political opponents or having official rape rooms as a tool of regime coercion.

The political left—which includes the U.N. bureaucracy and NGOs such as the ICJ—tactically redefines words and terms that have specific meanings so as to stigmatize controversial policies and positions with which it disagrees. By wielding the T-word like a political cudgel in order to shame countries like Malta to legalize abortion and get on the LGBT policy bandwagon, however, these internationalists demonstrate a depth of intellectual dishonesty that provides abundant reason for Malta (and the U.S.) to hold on tight to their national sovereignty.   

(This report by the pro life NGO, C-FAM, provides deeper context.)



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