The Cook Islands in the South Pacific are set to decriminalize homosexuality.
The tiny nation is made up of 15 islands and has a population of 21,000 people. It’s main religious faith is Christianity.
Its government is currently working on a draft bill that will overhaul the Crimes Act of 1969.
The new bill (Crimes Bill 2017) has removed certain sections of the 1969 Act which outlawed ‘indecent acts’ between two men and consensual sodomy.
Last month, the Cook Islands parliament established a committed to review public submissions relating to amending the Crimes Act. Submissions close on September 24 reports the Cook Islands News.
One of the groups to make a submission was the Cook Islands’ only LGBTI organization – the Te Tiare Association. The group has long advocated for the end of the criminalization of homosexuality.
Valentino Wichman led the group’s submission and called on the committee to make sure that there was no other parts of the new bill that would criminalize homosexuality.
He also shared a personal perspective of what life is like for LGBTI people in the Cook Islands.
‘What people tend to forget is that there is a very real personal aspect to this argument of decriminalising homosexuality,’ Wichman said in his submission.
‘Everyone has a family member or friend that is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, and queer or intersex. There are real people affected behind this debate.’
Not illegal, but not right
Politicians and religious leaders were quick to agree with the changes to law but stopped short at condoning homosexuality.
Tevai Matapo is a senior church minister and the president of the Religious Advisory Council.
He said gay people should not be criminalized but their ‘choices’ were not acceptable.
‘So if a person chooses to live a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender lifestyle, he or she is choosing a perversion of God’s good design,’ Matapo told Cook Islands News.
‘The only hope for the abolition of the hatred and mistreatment of any group of people, including those engaged in sexual sin, is in submitting to God and being washed clean by Jesus Christ.’