BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Sixteen-year-old Amy (not her real name) and her girlfriend were sitting on a bench in a public square in the Maltese town of Hamrun when two teenaged brothers allegedly called them "twisted" and "lesbians," according to a report in the Times of Malta.
The verbal harassment morphed into physical violence. The two brothers descended from a balcony from which they were reportedly hurling their insults, approached Amy and her girlfriend and began to hit and push them. The older of the brothers picked Amy up, punched her and dragged her by the hair in an attack that lasted 10 minutes before the police were called, the Times reported.
In the end, Amy suffered a fractured nose from a head butt and bruises to her face and breasts, while her girlfriend had scratches on her wrists and a bruise on her head.
"It was a horrible experience," Amy told the Times.
The Jan 13 incident was not the first time the couple had encountered the two brothers, 17 and 19, who are now charged with assault causing injury, the Times states. Previously, the brothers had allegedly thrown eggs at the two women, who brushed off the incident.
In the aftermath of the latest attack, the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) and several NGOs have condemned the violence and called for an expansion of hate crime legislation to include incidents involving homophobia and transphobia.
"In many countries, such an assault would be investigated as a hate crime, but Malta has yet to extend hate crime legislation to include the grounds of homophobia and transphobia," a joint statement by MGRM and the human rights group Aditus said.
People need to trust that police will take reports of violence seriously, the groups added. As things stand, attacks against queer people are common but most aren't reported to the police or in the media.
Since the incident, a few hundred people have registered their support of a Facebook group called The Amy Initiative that calls for hate crime based on sexual orientation to be recognized in Malta.