23 Sep 2020

Human rights campaigners urge Cook Island MPs to uphold Constitution

4:27 pm on 23 September 2020

Cook Islands' human rights campaigners are urging MP's to uphold the Constitution and end discrimination against gay men as the Crimes Bill goes before parliament in coming days.

Te Tiare association's Pride Cook Islands symbol

Te Tiare association's Pride Cook Islands symbol Photo: Te Tiare

Homosexuality is illegal under the Crimes Act which is seen as a breach of Article 64 of the Constitution that specifically bans discrimination.

Sexual acts between men are punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The Cook Islands Te Tiare association called for MPs to be on what they called the right side of history and reform the colonial era laws.

Te Tiare's President, Valery Wichman, said lawmakers had an obligation to uphold the constitution.

"We're asking for equal human rights before the law, rights that have been in place since the birth of our Cook Islands Constitution.

"We're not asking for new rights. We're not asking for same sex marriage," said Wichman.

"We're just asking to be recognised the same as everyone else. We're asking to be accepted."

A previous draft of the Crimes Bill decriminalised same-sex relations but this was changed in November last year when the Select Committee announced they wanted to renew the law against same-sex relations.

The move mobilised Te Tiare association and supporters who made more than 200 submissions backing change while an online petition has received around 5000 signatures.