It may have gone unnoticed that little over a year ago, a revolutionary development has taken place as far as public nudity is concerned in the conservative island of Malta.
Malta remains rightly stuck with an impression that it is not a nudist friendly country. It is an issue that does not go well with a majority of the populace. As a consequence, the two main political parties of Malta - the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party - tend to shy themselves from taking a position on such an issue - in stark contrast to other minority issues such as gay and lesbian rights, abortion and cannabis.
As of date, Malta does not yet have an official nudist beach and does not offer any naturist facilities - be they in the form of B&B accommodation, boat trips or spa facilities.
But on the 15th of February 2022, the Government of Malta led by the Labour Party published a Legal Notice no. 82 of 2022 whereby it was announced that certain criminal offences in the Criminal Code are to be considered as infringements and will be tried by the Commissioner of Justice instead of the Magistrates Courts.
Public Nudity with reference to Section 338(q) of the Criminal Code has now been included under the said Legal Notice as one of those offences that is now considered to be a minor offence.
This legal notice follows the announcement by the then Minister of Justice and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis in a press conference way back in July 2021 that 40 offences as listed in the criminal code were to be de-penalized.
The Minister did not specify the offences that were intended to be de-penalized. But the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) News reported that being caught naked will no longer be prosecuted in front of a Magistrate.
PBS was the only media outlet to recognize this fact.
The Times of Malta only mentioned fortune telling and vagrancy among the offences to be heard by the Commissioner of Justice.
That the Times of Malta remains a bastion of the Maltese conservative establishment became evident when they shunned (if not snubbed) any mention of a press release published by the International Naturist Federation in October 2020 calling on the Prime Minister Robert Abela to decriminalize public nudity in Malta and design an official nudist beach.
The press release of the I.N.F was only featured by the Malta Today.
But evidence of the cold indifference shown by Times of Malta to the cause of naturism was highlighted when it published later an article in August 2021 that reported with prominence nine dog friendly beaches available on the island. The agenda of the article was in effect a promotion of the Commissioner of Animal's wish to have more dog-friendly beaches increased.
It is truly an ironic situation here in Malta that animals have more rights than humans when it comes to swim or sunbathe in a natural manner.
When many naturists complain that one of the main obstacles in having naturism accepted on the island is the Catholic Church, I tend to disagree as I point the finger more towards the conservative establishment that is embodied in the Times of Malta and most of the other media (including The Malta Independent and Lovin Malta) as well as a number of conservative politicians from both the Labour and the Nationalist Party.
But whatever the obstacles and disappointments that still intrude on having naturism obtain an acceptable and respectable face on this island, Legal Notice 82 of 2022 should encourage naturists not to give up in their attempts to experience naturism on the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino.
It must be pointed out though that the depenalization of public nudity is still far from de-criminalization and total acceptance of public nudity by the Maltese community.
But it is truly a one small step but giant leap for people who embrace the cause of naturism.
As long as naturists take caution to practice naturism in remote areas and with like-minded people there is nothing to fear.
How the idea came about to include public nudity as a de-penalized offence will probably remain anyone' s guess. But perhaps, somewhat unrecognized by the naturists in the Maltese community were the constant efforts of a naturist by the alias name of Adam who during the past five years pushed for the cause of naturism and its harmless effects with the Government, assisted by his contacts from the International Naturist Federation (INF).
Adam likes in particular to mention and praise the great understanding, empathy and support that was always shown from Parliamentary Member and ex-Parliamentary Secretary on equality rights Rosianne Cutajar.
As Adam remarks, progress is always done in gradual and tiny incremental steps. The next step is to have a strong vibrant naturist community that have complete trust in each other. This is something that Adam has also been working on for but considers it a personal failure as of date.
He definitely needs our support to keep going. For without a community of like-minded people, the situation remains status quo. And it's no use blaming the Church or the Times of Malta or the political parties. Change must come from within by showing a true community spirit that is at present so lacking.