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Vaitoa Toelupe(March 2011)

In this podcast Vaitoa Toelupe from Samoa talks about attending the human rights conference.

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In an 11-minute podcast recorded at Wellington Town Hall on March 18, 2011, Vaitoa Toelupe from Samoa discussed their participation in a human rights conference. The conference was attended due to the support of the Kingdom of Netherlands, with the aim of ensuring the Pacific region was represented and its voice heard.

Toelupe highlighted three main messages from the conference. Firstly, there was the challenge to the genuine inclusion of the Pacific in discussions that often blanket the region under the 'Asia Pacific' term, demanding specificity where Pacific representation is concerned. Secondly, they stressed the importance of cultural context when discussing LGBTI terminology. While respectful of the terminology, Toelupe emphasized the need for terms that reflect the cultural identity and practices within Samoa to maintain national and global awareness of human rights activism that is relatable to their governments. Lastly, Toelupe expressed satisfaction with the representation and statements made by Pacific Islanders at the conference.

Toelupe elaborated on the cultural distinction in Samoa where transgender individuals are recognized primarily through their cultural identity within society, rather than their sexual identity. This cultural importance underpins a level of tolerance and acceptance that Toelupe did not want to compromise by introducing sexual identity labels that could conflict with Samoan traditions.

Discussing the status of rights in Samoa, Toelupe mentioned governmental actions such as the review of Samoa's position on the Declaration of Human Rights. The country has ratified international agreements like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Rights of the Child, indicating an ongoing commitment to human rights advocacy.

From the conference, Toelupe intended to take back lessons on Samoa's role in the international human rights arena. The focus was on finding common ground with other activists and organizations, including those from the LGBTI community, to foster collective progress without compromising cultural identities.

Regarding gays and lesbians in Samoa, Toelupe talked about the cultural status of lesbians, who, by dint of being women, have a significant place and recognition in society. There was recognition of the existence of gays, but questions remained about open acknowledgment due to prevailing conservative attitudes that favor family privacy. Under this cultural context, major movements for recognition beyond current levels were not evident as there wasn't a pressing need perceived by the community.

Returning from the conference, Toelupe expressed determination to continue advocating for improved living standards, economic and social opportunities, and participation in the human rights movement for all, including LGBT individuals willing to identify themselves as such.

In terms of opposition to expanding rights, Toelupe mentioned potential challenges due to foundational Christian beliefs in Samoan law where certain sexual acts are taboo. However, efforts to navigate these challenges centered on education and understanding to reach solutions that consider both legal and cultural perspectives.

The timeframe for legislative changes in Parliament was uncertain, with expectations for progress within the year, recognizing it as a crucial period for human rights advancements in Samoa.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:18th March 2011
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Wellington Town Hall, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004199).