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OutTakes: Indeed, people can choose not to go

Wed 31 May 2006 In: Movies

Ever since Out Takes started, I have always gone to watch many of the films on offer.I have always supported the festival. Up till now. This year, Reel Queer, the group running Out Takes, has offered a prize a winner may not be able to use (particularly if they are HIV positive) or, if they do go, may be subject to arrest for having adult consensual sex in the privacy of their resort accommodation. This year, Reel Queer has supported institutional homophobia by offering a prize to Fiji.Their website proclaims, in a small banner on the top right of their main page, "Become a member for just $6. Members are entitled to concession prices on tickets and go in a draw to win a holiday at Octopus Resort, Fiji!". This is followed by a link to their membership application page. But why is such a prize inappropriate? The Fijian constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Doesn't it? Yes, it does.The relevant part of their constitution states: Section 38 Equality (1) Every person has the right to equality before the law. (2) A person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly, on the ground of his or her: (a) actual or supposed personal characteristics of circumstances, including race, ethnic origin, colour, place of origin, gender, sexual orientation, birth, primary language, economic status, age or disability; or (b) opinions or beliefs, except to the extent that those opinions or beliefs involve harm to others or the diminution of the rights or freedoms of others; or on any other ground prohibited by this Constitution. (3) Accordingly, neither a law nor an administrative action taken under a law may directly or indirectly impose a disability or restriction on any person on a prohibited ground. The section goes on an states what are allowable exceptions to these three primary subsections. Subsection three above indicates that laws against people on the basis of their sexual orientation would not be allowable as they would "directly or indirectly impose a disability or restriction on any person on a prohibited ground". Yet Fijian Law quite clearly states that sex of any sort between men is illegal.Sections 175 to 177 of the Fijian Penal Code, together with a couple of other interestingsections,state: Unnatural offences 175. Any person who- (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without corporal punishment. Attempts to commit unnatural offences and indecent assaults 176. Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 175, or who is guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years, with or without corporal punishment. Indecent practices between males 177. Any male person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or private, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for five years, with or without corporal punishment. Definition of carnal knowledge 183. Whenever, upon the trial for any offence punishable under this Code, it may be necessary to prove carnal knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed in order to constitute a carnal knowledge, but the carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only. Corporal punishment 34.-(1) A sentence of corporal punishment shall be to suffer corporal punishment once only and shall specify the number of strokes which shall not exceed twelve in any case. (2) No sentence of corporal punishment shall be carried out unless it has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, and no such sentence shall be executed publicly or by instalments. ... (4) No sentence of corporal punishment shall be passed upon any of the following persons:- (a) females; (b) males sentenced to death; (c) males whom the court considers to be more than thirty-five years of age; (d) persons under the age of seventeen years. .... (6) In determining the age of an offender for the purposes of this section the court may in the absence of direct evidence or medical testimony of age adjudge such age according to the appearance of the offender. * So if you just happen to be visiting the Octopus Resort as part of your Out Takes prize, and your same-sex boyfriend is with you (or some local cutie you picked up), the police could enter your room and charge you under these sections. To obtain proof of penetration, you or your partner may be subjected to medical examination.Unless of course you were caught in the act.The two of you could be imprisoned for up to fourteen years, and you could, if agreed to by the Supreme Court, and you are between 17 and 35, be flogged. Up to 12 strokes of a cane. Not a school masters cane for those of you who think this may be of little consequence, but a long, heavy birch cane. Although the case of Naushad Ali v State (High Court of Lautoka, 2002) ruled that corporal punishment is unconstitutional (as well as breaching the international human rights instruments Fiji has signed), it remains as a legal punishment in the Penal Code. Although it could be claimed that Fiji's punishment is "enlightened" in that it doesn't prescribe the death penalty for male on male sex, by making criminals of men who have consenting adult sex with other men in private, Fiji institutionalises and promotes homophobia. Furthermore, subsection 2(d)(ii) of section 11 of their Immigration Act prohibits people "who at the time of his entry into Fiji is certified by a Government medical officer to be suffering from a contagious or infectious disease which makes his presence in Fiji dangerous to the community". This therefore prohibits people living with HIV from entering Fiji I won't purchase anything from the CD and DVD Store because they support Maxim, and therefore support homophobia, so I cannot in all conscience support a group, even a lesbian and gay group,that, albeit indirectly, supports institutional homophobia by offering as a prize a trip to a country which criminalises me or any other gay man. Nor could I support a group that offers as a prize something that specifically excludes part of our community- such as atrip to a country which prohibits the entry of people with HIV without any waiver possible. In their press release of 29 May 2006, Out Takes states "it is people's individual right to choose whether or not to become a member of Out Takes 2006 or to accept the prize should they win it". But it is also their right to choose whether or not they financially support a group that directly or indirectly supports institutionalised homophobia by offering such a prize in the first place. Iwill be exercising that right by withholding any income Reel Queer would have otherwise obtained from me by not attending any session this year. I urge others to consider taking this action also.     Calum Bennachie - 31st May 2006

Credit: Calum Bennachie

First published: Wednesday, 31st May 2006 - 12:00pm

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