Cel­e­brat­ing equal­ity for all

Fiji Sun - - Nation - Feedback: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

at­ti­tude. Ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tions be­tween con­sent­ing adults are still con­sid­ered a crime in some 80 coun­tries, and are pun­ished some­times very heav­ily, as seven coun­tries in the world still may de­cide of death penalty. In other coun­tries, even when ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity or trans­gen­der are legally ac­cepted, dis­crim­i­na­tory laws and in­fringe­ments of the rights to free­dom of ex­pres­sion, pri­vacy, health, em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and im­mi­gra­tion are com­mon prac­tice, as are ha­rass­ment, ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion and tor­ture, which may even ap­ply to those who de­fend the rights of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and in­ter­sex­ual (LGBTI) peo­ple. We are here to­day to stand against this, to claim that no one should face tar­get­ing or dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity, to claim free­dom of love, to say loud and clear that “LGBTI rights are hu­man rights.” I am very glad to wel­come to­day so many rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Fiji’s LGBTI com­mu­nity. Most of you here this morn­ing are on the front lines of this is­sue. Groups like Haus of Khameleon, Dro­dro­lagi Move­ment, DIVA, RWN and other hu­man-rights based part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions, get to­gether to or­gan­ise and strate­gise on how to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion of the LGBTI com­mu­nity in Fiji. These groups have de­vel­oped ways to bet­ter ad­vo­cate for LGBTI com­mu­nity and also on how to sup­port one an­other in the face of ho­mo­pho­bia and stig­ma­ti­sa­tion.

I would also like to pay trib­ute to the UN ac­tion on the ground, with spe­cial men­tion to the Of­fice of the UN Hu­man Rights com­mis­sioner here in Suva. The launch of the “Free and equal cam­paign” last Au­gust is still in ev­ery­body’s mind and I am sure many of you re­mem­ber the speech de­liv­ered on that day by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, a tire­less ad­vo­cate of the LGBTI com­mu­ni­ties, and now a UN re­gional good­will am­bas­sador for the fight against AIDS. France stands against ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia and was at the fore­front of the IDAHOT move­ment - its first Com­mit­tee chair­per­son, Mr Louis-Ge­orges Tin, was a French­man. France has been a long­time ad­vo­cate at the UN, and truly re­joiced when the first United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity was adopted by the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in June 2011. France, the Nether­lands, Nor­way and four NGOs joined forces in 2010 to set up an In­ter­na­tional “Hu­man Rights, Sex­ual Ori­en­ta­tion and Gen­der Iden­tity” sup­port fund. The aim of this unique fund, op­er­ated by “France Ex­per­tise In­ter­na­tionale”, on be­half of the French gov­ern­ment, is to bring to­gether the many agen­cies in­volved in fight­ing ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia (both pub­lic and pri­vate).

This fund sup­ports lo­cal ini­tia­tives in coun­tries where the is­sue of dis­crim­i­na­tion is too sen­si­tive to be tack­led pub­licly. You prob­a­bly know that France has de­cided to le­galise same sex mar­riage in May 2013, thus be­com­ing the 14th coun­try to do so. This new law has ben­e­fited around 10 000 cou­ples per year, that is to say more or less four per cent of all wed­dings cel­e­brated in France ev­ery year. IDAHOT day is cel­e­brated in more than 120 coun­tries to­day and there is a grow­ing con­sen­sus on the fact that there should not be any re­stric­tion to the free­dom of love be­tween con­sent­ing adults.

Even if the sit­u­a­tion in the Pa­cific re­mains dif­fi­cult, I would like to com­mend Fiji and the Bain­i­marama gov­ern­ment that de­crim­i­nalised ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

The 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion, in the bill of rights (ar­ti­cle 26-3), guar­an­tees fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights for ev­ery­one with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion.

De­spite these sig­nif­i­cant progress, much re­mains to be done in or­der to en­sure that les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and in­ter­sex­ual cit­i­zens are recog­nised just as what they are: hu­man be­ings en­ti­tled to dig­nity and equal­ity of rights. Merci beau­coup! Vi­naka Vakalevu! Thank you !

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