Bula Vinaka and Warm Pacific Greetings from Geneva.
I am the Coordinator of Fiji’s only LGBT project, called the Sexual Minorities Project under Women’s Action for Change (WAC), and apparently the only LGBT registered project in the South Pacific (excluding Australia and New Zealand). I am also member of ILGA'S WORLD BOARD as Regional Representative for Oceania. Continuous Battle for the removal of Sexual Orientation
Homophobia is the predominant problem for LGBT people in the Fiji Islands, and this leads to other problems. The 1997 Constitution protects LGBT people under the anti-discriminatory clause in section 38(2)(b). The government in 2000 tried to remove Sexual Orientation from that clause, and again the illegal government who are now the elected government of the day is still trying to do the same. With massive pressure from both local and international NGOs and individuals, the clause is safe for now.
Despite having this great piece of legislation, the Penal Code, which was incorporated during the colonial era and is still being used today, prosecutes men who have sex with men, whether in private or public. Punishment is up to 15 years imprisonment, which in fact contradicts the 1997 Constitution (under section 38 (2)(b)) and section 37 (1), which is the right to privacy.The Sexual Minorities Project deals with all aspects of LGBT issues.
It advocates for LGBT rights, conducts Pride activities and networks with government, NGOs both locally and internationally, and provides basic skills, including starting your own business training to help eradicate poverty in the LGBT community. It promotes a major awareness of issues affecting LGBT people, provides counselling and a support network, and has a drop in centre with library resources. The project also organises self-esteem empowerment training for LGBT members. Awareness on the Brazilian Resolution has been sent far and wide in the Oceania region.
Uma Kali, ILGA female rep for the region, has been working endlessly to inform our Australian and New Zealand counterparts; and Sexual Minorities Project has been spreading the news in the Pacific region through new contacts it has established with regional NGOs. It has been receiving huge responses asking about the resolution, our organisation and issues affecting LGBT people. The vast majority of LGBT people living in the South Pacific, excluding Australia and New Zealand, don’t have regular or any access at all to the internet. Fortunately, the use of coconut wireless is still being practised. Our project has also tapped into this method, but at the same time has been very careful, as the message could get misconstrued along the way. Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters have not been reached in remote areas due to security issues.
The Sexual Minorities Project has also extensively lobbied the government, particularly the Foreign Affairs Minister. Even though Fiji is not sitting at the UNCHR, he told us that the government supported the resolution and that he had sent instructions to Fiji’s Permanent Secretary to the UN to support the resolution.