Activists’ petition seeks LGBTI rights in Pacific Islands

LGBTI rights activists in the Pacific Islands are pushing a regional gathering of island governments to adopt policies guaranteeing justice and equal treatment for their LGBTI citizens.

Graphic for the Pacific Islands decriminalization petition.

Graphic promotes the Pacific Islands decriminalization petition.

Their petition to the Pacific Islands Forum asks that political / economic organization to adopt policies requiring member nations “to support full inclusivity, equity and equality for all people of the Pacific.”

These are the problems that LGBTI islanders face, as outlined in the petition:

“Because of existing discriminatory legislative provisions, LGBTI people in the Pacific face severe challenges and suffer disproportionate discrimination and abuse.

“They are rejected by their families, kicked out of their homes, bullied, and pushed out of school. Too many LGBTI people are jobless, homeless, without healthcare, and struggling to survive, including LGBTI Pacific citizens that migrate to Australia and New Zealand.

“The situation of transgender men and women is even worse. They have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and hunger.

“For individuals and their families, this is a personal tragedy. For society, it is a shameful waste of human talent, ingenuity and economic potential.”

Kiribati consists of dozens of small islands in the central Pacific Ocean. Their total area is about 300 square miles, with a total population of about 100,000 people. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Kiribati consists of dozens of small islands in the central Pacific Ocean. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

At present, seven members of the 18-nation forum have laws against same-sex intimacy:  Cook Islands, Kiribati (sometimes spelled Kirbati), Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Other members of the Pacific Islands Forum are Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands, and Vanuatu.

Nauru, which is the host for the September meeting of the group, recently decriminalized homosexuality.

LGBTI activist Joey Joleen Mataele of Tonga told Gay Star News:

“Things have actually gotten worse rather than better in recent years due to the influence of fundamentalist religious groups from abroad. These fundamentalists are agitating to resurrect the colonial era laws that criminalize our lives.

“While many say it’s not likely that these laws would be enforced, the fact that they’re on the books gives cover to those who claim that LGBTI people are inferior and not deserving of dignity and respect. …

“Elimination of these archaic laws will be the first step in the right direction toward reducing the bias and discrimination that make our daily lives so difficult.”

As of today, 1,677 people have signed the petition on Change.org. This is the text of the petition:

Decriminalize and Protect the Rights of LGBTI People in the Pacific Islands Now!

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of New Guinea. The western half of the island is part of Indonesia. (Map courtesy of CassidyAndKari.com)

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of New Guinea. The western half of the island is part of Indonesia. (Map courtesy of CassidyAndKari.com)

As Pacific LGBTI leaders and allies with a view to the protection and promotion of human rights of gender and sexual minorities in the Pacific Islands, we respectfully call on the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s premier inter-governmental policy organisation, to immediately introduce supportive policies to ensure that all of its members uphold the values of its mission “to support full inclusivity, equity and equality for all people of the Pacific.”

Seven of the 18 Forum member states* maintain colonial-era laws that criminalize the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people**, threatening gender diverse citizens with harsh penalties, including but not limited to imprisonment, whipping and other corporal punishments. Regardless of enforcement, such laws reinforce negative attitudes that enable an environment of persecution and harm to all LGBTI citizens in the Pacific.

On behalf of all LGBTI citizens, and their families, friends, and allies, we respectfully call on the Pacific Islands Forum Chair, Leaders, and Member States to:

  • Establish a process that leads to full legal protections for all LGBTI citizens in all member states, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the commitment to “Leave No One Behind”;
  • Enforce a policy of full decriminalisation of colonial-era and other laws that restrict the freedom of expression of Pacific LGBTI citizens;
  • Denounce homophobic and transphobic prejudice and discrimination, and lead the way by ensuring that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat develops employment policies that protect its LGBTI, gender & sexual minority employees;
  • Include gender & sexual minorities in leadership positions and in decision-making processes

Because of existing discriminatory legislative provisions, LGBTI people in the Pacific face severe challenges and suffer disproportionate discrimination and abuse. They are rejected by their families, kicked out of their homes, bullied, and pushed out of school. Too many LGBTI people are jobless, homeless, without healthcare, and struggling to survive, including LGBTI Pacific citizens that migrate to Australia and New Zealand. The situation of transgender men and women is even worse. They have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and hunger. For individuals and their families, this is a personal tragedy. For society, it is a shameful waste of human talent, ingenuity and economic potential.

PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION TO HELP MAKE THE PACIFIC FREE AND EQUAL FOR ALL. THANK YOU!

Location of Tuvalu islands in the South Pacific.

Location of Tuvalu islands in the South Pacific.

*The Pacific Islands Forum member states are: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

**Some Pacific Islands Gender Diversity Terms include: Leiti or fakaleiti (Tonga), Fa’afafine (Samoa, American Samoa, and Tokelau), Fakafifine (Niue), Akava’ine (Cook Islands), Māhū (Tahiti and Hawai’i), Aikane (Hawai’i) Vakasalewalewa (Fiji), Palopa (Papua New Guinea), Ira tāngata, Takatāpui,Tangata ira tāne, Whakawahine, hinehī, hinehua (Maori).

Sponsored by Leitis in Waiting Pacific Equality Project – Pacific Human Rights Initiative – Tonga Leitis Association – Pacific Sexual & Gender Diversity Network

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