IDAHOT: NGO Coalition on Human Rights calls for Protection of LGBTQI Rights

16th May, 2016

Fiji’s NGO Coalition on Human Rights calls for the protection and recognition of human rights for all Fijians, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

“As we celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we recognise that many of our people are facing stigma and violence simply for being who they are. The overwhelming discrimination they face can lead to depression, self-harm and other health issues,” said NGOCHR Chair, Tara Chetty.

“This is a serious human rights issue that has been recognised at the global level.”

Every year on IDAHOT, the global community commemorates the decision by the World Health Organisation to remove homosexuality from the list of ‘mental disorders’ on May 17, 1990.

The NGO Coalition welcomes this year’s theme ‘Mental health and well-being’, as the Pacific has among the highest rates of suicide in the world. Where the issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) persons are silenced by deeply entrenched discrimination and stigma, this contributes to growing mental health issues in Fiji.

The Fiji Constitution prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but there are still problematic provisions that are barriers to their full recognition and protection. Prominent leaders, including the Prime Minister, have also made homophobic comments, condoning stigma and discrimination.

“There’s a need to promote a human-rights based approach in challenging community attitudes that harm people. The debates on marriage equality over-shadowed other more pressing issues for the LGBTQI community who are struggling to realize their most basic rights. They face multiple and intersecting forms of sexual and gender-based violence, stigma, bullying and cyber-bullying, lack of access to State services, homelessness and unemployment but their issues remain largely invisible and unaddressed, including in the mainstream media,” Chetty said.

Despite these challenges, the Coalition commends progress in some areas. For example, during the Speaker’s Debate on Violence Against Women and Girls, the Police Commissioner welcomed a meeting with transwomen activists to discuss their concerns. And there are plans for groundbreaking national research into sexual and gender-based violence against transgender persons.

“The Coalition welcomes the commitment from the Police force to protect all Fijians irrespective of their race, gender or ethnicity,” she said.

“The Coalition would like to see the security forces and those in authority take further steps to ensure equal rights for all Fijians without discrimination.”