18 Aug 2015

Puna says same-sex marriage not an issue in Cooks

2:06 pm on 18 August 2015

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, says same-sex marriage is not an issue in the Cook Islands, and there is no need to deal with it until it becomes one.

His comments come in response to a new United Nations campaign calling for action on homophobia and transphobia in the Pacific Islands.

The Cook Islands News reports Henry Puna as saying the Cook Islands shouldn't just follow what the UN or the international community is doing.

He says the Cook Islands needs to be guided by its own people as to what they want to do in response to those pressures.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

The Cook Islands is one of eight Pacific nations, and one of 77 countries where it is illegal to engage in any sexual activity with a person of the same sex.

An associate professor in human rights at Monash University in Melbourne, Dr Paula Gerber, says decriminalisation is not the priority for LGBTI locals, as no one has been prosecuted or convicted under those laws for years.

She says what makes life difficult, is the lack of any laws that prohibit discrimination against them.

Dr Gerber says as things are, people can be denied jobs, access to healthcare or housing because of their sexuality or gender identity.