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GLBTI issues off PI conference agenda

Tue 9 Dec 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Associate Professor Malakai Kolomatangi of Massey University Despite efforts by the organisers of a Pacific Human Rights conference currently under way in Auckland there will be no discussion of the issues faced by glbti Pacific Islanders. The Human Rights In The Pacific conference, being held at Massey University's Albany campus, includes "deliberations about greater political rights, gender equality, the rights of children, the rights of communities affected by climate change, indigenous rights, legal rights, and rights to effective health care." However, the narrowly proscribed cultural position, widespread religious intolerance and continuing criminalisation of homosexuality in most PI nations did not make it on to the agenda. "We put the conference call out quite a while ago and we looked at expressions of interest and tried to fill the gaps and tried to encourage particularly the NGOs to come," says conference spokesperson Associate Professor Malakai Kolomatangi. "But we didn't get interest from [glbti] stakeholders. Perhaps it had to do with the timing, perhaps we're not at an appropriate time of the year when people are either overseas or doing other things. We would have loved to have got some speakers from that part of our community. We tried really hard to get people from across New Zealand and across the region as well." Kolomatangi says the expense of traveling from any Pacific nations to the conference would not have been an issue. "We had funding for fares to bring people from the Pacific islands... but we got turned down by a lot of them to come." As for gay pacific people possibly being reluctant to be involved as they might be outing themselves in their communities, Kolomatangi concedes that may be part of the problem. "Maybe. But a lot of PI societies are somewhat tolerant and accommodating. I grew up in the Pacific and I saw this first hand. But maybe they feel uncomfortable and so we have to find a way to include those important sections of our society in a way that is appropriate for them so they can feel comfortable and safe as well." This year's event was the first in what Kolomatangi hopes will be an annual series and he hopes glbti people will be involved next year and in the future.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 9th December 2014 - 12:52pm

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