7 January 2016

Press Release

NGO Coalition for Human Rights Responds to Prime Minister’s Recent Homophobic Statement on Marriage Equality

The Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) is concerned by the Prime Minister’s recent comments in the Fiji Sun on page 1 of Wednesday 6 January 2016 edition.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was quoted in the Fiji Sun as saying “There will be no same sex marriage in Fiji in our lifetime” and “Fiji does not need that rubbish.” For lesbian couples wishing to get married, he is quoted: “Go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there.”

The Prime Minister was reacting to a replay of FBCTV’s 4 The Record Show discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights, which was originally aired on 17 May 2015 on the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“We find his comments extremely alarming due to its homophobic connotations. Comments such as these incite structural discrimination and violence often perpetuated by homophobic stigma towards the LGBTI community; a community that is already marginalized. Human Rights defenders are often maligned for promoting Human Rights for all, but comments of this nature made by someone in authority, such as the Prime Minister, can prove dangerous and insightful of violence if not addressed,” says Shamima Ali, Chair of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights.

“Marriage Equality is not the only issue of concern for LGBTI persons. Foremost the assurance of enjoying the same civil liberties that most of us take for granted is a driving concern for having discussions around eliminating Homophobia and Transphobia in Fiji,” says Shamima Ali.

Bainimarama’s comments threaten to regress the Human Rights advancements Fiji has made thus far. Fiji has been commended for having sexual orientation as a status protected from discrimination as far back as the 1997 Constitution and the inclusion of Gender Identity under the 2013 Constitution. Additionally, for our country’s active support and involvement in the Free & Equal campaign for LGBTI Equality, a United Nations regional campaign that was launched in August 2015, in Suva.

Internationally, the current government has appeared before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review session in October 2014 and accepted the recommendation to take concrete measures to end discrimination and counter stigmatization of marginalized groups, including minorities and LGBTI persons.

“The Prime Minister’s comments contradict his statements in the past where he said all Fijians are equal no matter who they are or where they come from. While we welcome open discussion on LGBTI Rights, they must be respectful and not promote hate speech,” says Kris Prasad, member of NGO Coalition on Human Rights.

“Marriage equality is just one of the many issues, among others such as the stigma, violence, harassment and discrimination faced by the LGBTI community that prevent many from reaching their full potential and to be on an equal par with others in society,” says Prasad.

“We would like to see the Prime Minister and our Government hold true to their promise of equality and non-discrimination for ALL Fijians including those with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. A secular and genuine democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom lays the foundation for a harmonious and tolerant society where all Fijians can prosper” says Prasad.

ENDS

For more information contact
Shamima Ali 9992875