Cook Islands to hold first Pride Day to fight anti-gay laws

cook islands pride day auckland pride festival
Photo: Sam Sutherland, courtesy of Auckland Pride Festival

The Cook Islands will hold its first Pride Day this month, as the country’s LGBTIQ community fights to have homosexuality decriminalised.

In 2017, the Cook Islands Parliament removed “indecent acts between men” and “sodomy” from a draft Crimes Bill.

However, in November the government backflipped and reinstated the clause to the draft Bill after pressure from churches.

Now activists are expecting a final vote on the bill in June, in what they call “a watershed moment” in the Cook Islands’ human rights history.

But before then, they’re holding the first ever Pride Day on Rarotonga on March 27 to celebrate the LGBTIQ community and send a message to government.

Pride Cook Islands spokesperson Karla Eggelton said they want the event to build visibility, understanding and acceptance.

“We hope showing who we are will help break down barriers,” Eggelton said.

“Our country’s having an important conversation right now about decriminalising same sex relationships.

“Let’s not lose sight that ongoing discrimination impacts real people. We’re your family members, your friends, your workmates, neighbours and customers.

“We’re a part of everyday life and we’re proud of who we are. That’s why Pride Day is an event out in the open and open to all.”

Government petitioned to scrap colonial-era anti-gay laws

The Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands in the south Pacific, north-east of New Zealand. The nation outlawed male homosexual sex in 1969.

Today, the nation’s queer communities still have few human rights protections and face ostracism and discrimination by families and communities.

Local group Te Tiare Association are petitioning the Cook Islands government to scrap the anti-gay laws.

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

“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.”

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