28 Nov 2019

Most Cook Islanders support same-sex relations ban - committee

4:11 pm on 28 November 2019

A Cook Islands special select committee reviewing proposed amendments to the country's crimes act says the majority of public submissions call for provisions criminalising homosexuality to be retained.

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Photo: Wikimedia

In a 2017 draft version of the proposed amendments, officials removed the provisions which, if passed, would have effectively decriminalised homosexuality in the Cook Islands.

But committee chair Tingika Elikana said the feedback received during public consultations showed that an overwhelming majority of Cook Islanders wanted to keep the provision outlawing homosexuality.

"The officials who drafted the bill decided in their own wisdom to remove those bills and I am always of the view that that is the Parliament's job.

"It is not the job of the, the job of the official is to make suggestions or recommendations to parliamentarians. But at the end of the day it is parliamentarians who will decide what's the provisions of the new bill will be or the new Crimes Act."

The report and recommendations from the special select committee on the proposed amendments to the Crimes Act will be submitted during the February sitting of Parliament.

Mr Elikana said the main purpose of the review was to modernise the Cook Islands Crimes Act of 1969 so it covered things like cyber crime and human trafficking.

However, a New Zealand parliamentarian has described the law on homosexuality in the Cook Islands as a colonial inheritance that does not reflect Pacific realities.

MP Louisa Wall said she hoped the Cook Islands decriminalised homosexuality.

New Zealand Labour Party MP Louisa Wall at the launch of Maire Leadbeater's book 'See No Evil: New Zealand's betrayal of the people of West Papua'

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Ms Wall, who is the architect of New Zealand's marriage equality laws, said members of the LGBTQI community were valued in Pacific cultures and the issue was not a matter of right and wrong but of equality and human rights.

"We are discriminating against takatapui. I mean we exist in all of our Pacific languages and cultures, we are valued members of our whanau whether it is fa'afafine or fakaleiti or however we express it in our languages," she said.