Cook Islands backflips on legalising gay sex after church pressure


cook islands prime minister henry puna
Cook Islands PM Henry Puna. Photo: YouTube

Politicians in the Cook Islands have backtracked on decriminalising homosexuality in the Pacific nation, reportedly under pressure from church leaders.

Two years ago, the Cook Islands Parliament was praised for removing “indecent acts between men” and “sodomy” from a draft Crimes Bill.

Advertisements

But last weekend the chairman of a committee, Tingika Elikana, said the government had backflipped and would reinstate the clause after pressure from churches.

And a push to make the laws gender-neutral will also criminalise sex between women for the first time, Stuff.co.nz reported.

“There were provisions [on homosexuality] removed from the draft bill. People said they have got some concerns about it and the committee has taken that into account,” Elikana said.

“One of the arguments surrounding it is people are saying there is no one charged with those kind of offences like homosexuality, witchcraft, sodomy and all that.

“[But] on the other side of the coin, maybe because those provisions are in the act, that’s why nobody is doing it.

“They are doing it in the privacy of their homes which is another argument.

“If you remove those provisions then you more or less encourage it to be in the open because now there is no law that says that kind of conduct is prohibited.

“We are still going forward in those matters, nobody has been prosecuted and I don’t think anybody will be prosecuted.

“But having that in the law books is probably a deterrent to people to come out in the open and be open about it.”

The select committee’s recommendation to Parliament would reinstate a penalty of imprisonment for consensual “sodomy”.

Local LGBTIQ advocates petition against the criminalisation of homosexuality

Cook Islands LGBTIQ advocates say queer people in the Pacific nation have few human rights protections and face ostracism and discrimination by families and communities.

Local group Te Tiare Association have started a petition to their nation’s government slamming the anti-gay laws.

Advertisements

“These nations cling to anti-gay laws enacted under colonial rule and the influence of conservative Christian missionaries,” they write.

“Those laws criminalized consensual sexual relations between males but not between women until just recently here in the Cook Islands.

“Our LGBTI Rainbow communities continue to experience discrimination, stigma, homophobia, violence and suicide.”

Amnesty International Australia also called on the Cook Islands’ Parliament to “be on the right side of history” and decriminalise homosexuality.

“We all have the right to be treated equally, no matter our sexual orientation or gender identity,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Joel Clark said.

“Despite recent wins for equality around the world, in many countries the right to express our sexuality is still being challenged.

“The Cook Islands has a chance to be on the right side of history in decriminalising homosexuality.

“We hope that its Parliament will be stronger than to bend to the will of pressure groups that seek to deny people their basic human rights to express their sexuality freely.”

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.