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Cook Is. queen: criminalising gays 'unfair'

Sun 9 Nov 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Pa Ariki The' queen of the Cook Islands,' Takitumu paramount chief Marie Pa Ariki says it is unfair and unjust for gay people to be treated as criminals due to who they love and how they express that love. The Cook Islands is one of several Pacific nations which still criminalise same-sex relations between men and offer no human rights protections to those who are widely ostracised for not being born heterosexual. Speaking exclusively to Daily News during the closing stages of this weekend's Hui Takataapui, Pa Ariki said she believes glbti people should be treated on an equal basis with the rest of the population. "[Gay] people are knowledgeable and contribute to society and to home life," she says. "They are human like everyone else... we are all whanau." She acknowledges there is conservatism regarding homosexuality in the Pacific Islands. Asked if it is right and reasonable that gay people, including the traditional akava'ine, are treated treated as criminals under the laws of many countries she said is is not. Although her experience of homosexuality in Cook Island culture appears heavily influenced by the traditional place of akava'ine (analagous to fa'afafine) people she recalled with concern a situation known to her where a man returned to the Cook Islands with his "man friend... The family were all up in the air over it," she says ruefully. "But Pacific Island conservatism is changing now," she believes, "people are learning." In recent years Pa Ariki has been a regular attendee at the annual Hui Takataapui which focuses on improving the lives and health of glbti indigenous people in New Zealand an Pacific nations. She was among the guests of honour at last night's hui dinner at the rural Te Papa O Rotu marae, west of Hamilton. Footnote: Many Polynesian and Melanesian nations cling to anti-gay laws enacted under colonial rule and the influence of conservative Christian missionaries. Those laws criminalised consensual sexual relations between males but not between women. The islands of French Polynesia and the American state of Hawaii no longer criminalise homosexual intimacy and extend to glbti people broad rights of relationship recognition and even marriage. Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Pitcairn, American Samoa, Niue and Tokelau have decriminalised homosexuality but extend few or no equal rights. Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and the Cook Islands still proscribe homosexual intimacy with jail terms of up to fourteen years in some cases, and offer no relationship recognition or human rights equality.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Sunday, 9th November 2014 - 3:33pm

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