Over 140 people, including students, academic staff, development representatives and activists attended the event held at USP?s Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies.
In her welcome address, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of USP, Professor Susan Kelly, highlighted the recent support for lesbian and gay rights by United States? President Obama. Professor Kelly also emphasised how solidarity, support and advocacy from a wide range of individuals and groups is critical to the recognition of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) rights.
In a video message by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay, screened before the panel discussion, she talked about the human cost of homophobia and transphobia and called on States to punish violence and hatred, not love.
The four panellists, Kris Prasad, Tessa McKenzie, Tara Chetty and Ashwin Raj, moderated by Mereia Carling, spoke on the 2012 IDAHOT theme ?Combating Homophobia and Transphobia in Education and through Education.?
LGBTIQ youth activist and President of the Drodrolagi Movement Kris Prasad, spoke on the significance of the Pink Triangle symbol from the Holocaust and the slogan ?Silence Equals Death? from the early days of the gay rights movement. He said ?we must all break the silence on homophobia and transphobia as they are still killing people, and not just bodies, but hearts and minds also.? Schools and tertiary institutions should have comprehensive anti-bullying policies that also address homophobic and transphobic bullying. Human rights should be integrated in education and this can help create a culture of respect and appreciation of diversity to allow all young people to reach their full potential.
Lay Minister in the Anglican Church Tessa Mackenzie, spoke of the need for religions to review their interpretations of scriptures to enable their application to today?s realities. She highlighted the nature of religion being a continual process of managing change, prompting at times, spiritual, emotional and intellectual struggles. She advised a change in religious understanding of human gender is needed. According to her ?religions get trapped in certainties and miss the rich variety of the Divine Creator?s creation.? She asked ?what does it really mean to be human?? and called for further dialogue.
Fiji Women?s Rights Movement?s Programme Manager Tara Chetty, spoke on the importance of building alliances across movements to challenge homophobia and transphobia and make progress on LGBTIQ rights. Such alliances are built on nuanced analysis of the issues, and Chetty charted how FWRM experienced this process ? moving towards the inclusion of transwomen in their programming. She said the Movement will now be strengthening alliances with LGBTIQ allies, working on protecting and expanding sexual orientation and gender identity rights in the Bill of Rights during the upcoming review of Fiji?s Constitution. USP academic and activist Ashwin Raj, spoke about the future of democracy.
While reminding us that those who espouse to sexual values other then compulsory heterosexuality constitute the world?s largest and oldest diaspora, he said that democracy has much to learn from sexuality. They are both at home and in exile. Since sexual identities can never be reduced to sexual acts, so should democracy strive to be more than free and fair elections and the performative conventions of constitutionalism? He said the Left movement will have to plant the first seeds of democracy by allowing for difference to flourish. Since ?law? is not the same as ?justice?, education, exercising reason and the training of the imagination by entering the protocols of others will play a critical role in compelling law to engage with our material conditions.
The panel discussion concluded with a one and half hour open forum where the audience actively participated by continuing the dialogue on LGBTIQ rights, religion, culture, education, media, family, respect and love.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is the commemoration of the May 17, 1992 decision by the World Health Organization to de-pathologize homosexuality. The main purpose of the Day is to create a moment, a space that local groups can use as an opportunity to take action and harness to engage into dialogue with the media, policy makers, public opinion, NGOs, civil society and religious groups. This year, droMo joined tens of thousands of activists from Fiji and around the world to mark the event.
For further information or queries please contact Kris Prasad on Drodrolagi.Movement@gmail.com