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Petitions mounted to pressure Fiji on anti-gay law

Thu 8 Jun 2006 In: Features

For the past fortnight, controversy has surrounded this year's Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival offer of a prize for two members to holiday at the Octopus Resort in Fiji. A Fijian law, still on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by a High Court judge, includes the crime of ‘carnal knowledge', which has been used to arrest gay men for participating in consensual sex. It even has provision for flogging ‘offenders.' Also, Fiji denies entry to HIV positive people which, in effect, precludes the possibility for HIV positive members of the LGBT community from enjoying the Out Takesprize should they win it. Out Takes says that at the time they decided to accept the offer of the Fiji prize, they believed that the Fijian High Court had struck down the ‘carnal knowledge' laws last year, in its review of the imprisonment of an Australian gay tourist and a local man for having consensual adult sex. The court deemed the anti-gay laws unconstitutional due to their discriminatory effect, and in the Fijian system of government, the High Court, as the country's top court, has the power to strike down laws, and therefore it was assumed to have removed any danger of gay men being arrested. But The unconstitutional anti-gay sex law is still on Fiji's statute books, so the current legal situation for gay men in Fiji is unclear. GayNZ.com has made several phone calls to Fijian government departments trying to find someone, anyone, who would discuss the subject or provide a definitive statement on the issue, without success. Similarly, OutTakes says it is not getting any response for guidance from the Fijian High Commission in Wellington. On the issue of HIV positive men being denied entry to Fiji, both the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Body Positive Auckland, have expressed their disappointment that such a prize could be considered. Ironically, the NZAF is the Festival's Gold Tiara sponsor to the tune of $8,000. In the face of all this legal confusion and insitutionalised discrimination, Rainbow Labour, the LGBT branch of the New Zealand Labour Party, has partnered up with the stressed festival organisers to launch two public petitions. The first is to the Fijian government and the second is to the New Zealand government. Both petitions seek clarification of the legal situation for same-sex bonking in Fiji, for visitors and locals alike, and ask that the Fijian government reverse its policy of denying entry to those who are HIV positive. Rainbow Labour is also concerned at the institutionalised homophobia prevalent in Fiji, which most notably flared up in the aftermath of the shocking slasher murders of the gay head of the Fiji Red Cross and his NZ-born partner. Backgrounding the petition to the New Zealand government, Rainbow Labour notes that “New Zealand has a very strong record of taking a principled stand in all our international relationships and we are simply asking the government to do the same thing on this issue.” GayNZ.com readers wishing to participate can download and print off the two petitions using the links below, to be circulated among people aged 18 years or older, and returned asap to: Maryan Street, MP Parliament Buildings Wellington No stamp is required for letters posted to Parliament. David Parrish - 8th June 2006    

Credit: David Parrish

First published: Thursday, 8th June 2006 - 12:00pm

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