Malta's legislation on forced sterilisation

Legislation about (forced) sterilisation

Forced sterilisation is criminalised under § 251F of CAP. 9 of the Laws of Malta (Criminal Code), which states that “Any person who for non-medical reasons, by force, deceit, bribery or threats surgically removes or disables a person’s reproductive organs without that person’s full and informed consent, leading to sterilisation, shall be guilty of enforced sterilisation and shall, unless the fact constitutes a more serious offence under any other provision of this Code, be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term from four to ten years.”

The Mental Health Act 2012 (MHA) includes provisions for the sterilisation of persons with mental health problems.

The sterilisation of a person with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities is carried out with the consent of the patient or a “responsible carer” and subject to the oversight and confirmation of the Commissioner for Mental Health according to the Mental Health Act (MHA).

The MHA prohibits the sterilisation of minors with mental health problems and the sterilisation or other invasive intervention to modify sexual and emotional changes resulting from a mental illness.

The legal framework on sterilisation is about to be amended, to include the right to consent and free and informed consent from the person concerned by the sterilisation.

In 2021, Malta launched its National Policy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which provides for the elaboration of a “new comprehensive Sexual Health Policy and Strategy, […] to guarantee equal opportunities for quality access to sexual and reproductive health care”. It also stated that […] the new Policy and Strategy shall emphasize that efforts towards forcing contraception on disabled persons, particularly persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, and including sterilisation by way of permanent contraception, are to be countered effectively.”

Malta informed in its replies to the list of issues concerning its initial report to the CRPD Committee, that the State barriers to the exercise of consent due to restrictions on legal capacity, will be addressed in the new Personal Autonomy Bill.

Legal cases on the forced sterilisation of people with disabilities

In its 2018 report to the CRPD Committee, Malta stated that in recent years there was only one case (in 2016) of a person with intellectual disabilities who had undergone sterilisation. However, this person expressed her consent to the intervention.