Oceania

Human rights in Oceania — lots of work to do

Like many countries, Nauru has human rights problems. In addition to those specified below that affect LGBTI people, it is the focus of Australians' protests against their country's policy of shipping refugees there. (Photo courtesy of SydneyCriminalLawyers.com.au)

Like many countries, Nauru has human rights problems. In addition to those specified below that affect LGBTI people, it is the focus of Australians’ protests against their country’s policy of shipping refugees there. (Photo courtesy of SydneyCriminalLawyers.com.au)

Much remains to be done to improve the human rights records of seven Pacific Ocean countries that still have laws against same-sex intimacy.

In particular, LGBTI rights in those seven countries in Oceania are the focus of the following excerpts  from the 2015 edition of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The complete reports cover a variety of human-rights issues beyond those excerpted here, including workers’ rights; discrimination against women, children, minorities, indigenous people and others; torture; and civil liberties.

They’re all written from the perspective of the United States, although the U.S. is far from blameless with regard to human rights. Among many current examples, at least 14 U.S. states keep unenforceable anti-gay laws on the books;  the United Kingdom has just issued a travel advisory warning about the discriminatory new laws imposed in North Carolina and Mississippi; and the U.S. still struggles to end its historic mistreatment of indigenous people and of racial, ethnic and other minorities.

This blog is reprinting LGBTI-focused excerpts about human rights in:

 

Excerpts from the recently published U.S. State Department reports from 2015 begin here:

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, Kiribati consists of dozens of small islands. Their total area is about 300 square miles, with a total population of about 100,000 people. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, Kiribati consists of dozens of small islands. Their total area is about 300 square miles, with a total population of about 100,000 people. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Kiribati

The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or color, and the government observed these prohibitions; however, only native I-Kiribati may own land. The law prohibits gender discrimination only in employment, but due mainly to limited resources the government did not effectively enforce this provision during the year.

Consensual sexual conduct between men is illegal, with a maximum penalty of five to 14 years’ imprisonment depending on the nature of the offense. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions.

No law specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no reports of societal discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Nauru

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed, or gender, and the government generally enforced these provisions.

Consensual male same-sex sexual conduct is illegal, but there were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, enacted in May, does not specifically cite sexual orientation, but it could be used to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community. There were isolated reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of New Guinea. The western half of the island is part of Indonesia. (Map courtesy of CassidyAndKari.com)

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of New Guinea. The western half of the island is part of Indonesia. (Map courtesy of PlacesBook.org and CassidyAndKari.com)

Papua New Guinea

The constitution and law provide for equal protection irrespective of race, tribe, place of origin, color, or sex; however, enforcement of the provisions was not effective.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations and acts of “gross indecency” between males are illegal. The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual relations is 14 years’ imprisonment; for acts of gross indecency between male persons (a misdemeanor), three years. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions during the year. There were no specific reports of societal violence or discrimination against such persons, but they were vulnerable to societal stigmatization, which may have led to underreporting.

Samoa

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally respected these provisions. Politics and culture generally reflected a heritage of matai privilege and power, and members of certain families of high traditional status possessed some advantages.

“Sodomy” and “indecency between males” are illegal, with maximum penalties of seven and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, but authorities did not enforce these provisions with regard to consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

Although there were no reports of societal violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were isolated cases of discrimination. While society publicly recognized the transgender Fa’afafine community, members of the community reported instances of social discrimination.

Solomon Islands

The constitution provides that no person–regardless of race, place of origin, color, or disability–shall be treated in a discriminatory manner with respect to access to public places. The constitution further prohibits any laws that would have discriminatory effects and provides that no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by anyone acting in an official capacity. Despite constitutional and legal protections, women remained the victims of discrimination in the male-dominated society. Unemployment remained high, and there were limited job opportunities for persons with disabilities.

“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and it appeared that these laws generally were not enforced. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.

Location of Tuvalu islands in the South Pacific.

Location of Tuvalu islands in the South Pacific.

Tonga

The constitution prohibits general discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce this provision, however, and the law confirms the special status of members of the royal family and the nobility. While social, cultural, and economic facilities were available to all citizens regardless of race and religion, members of the hereditary nobility had substantial advantages, including control over most land and a generally privileged status.

The law provides for the unequal treatment of women.

By law “sodomy with another person” is a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of prosecutions under this provision for consensual sexual conduct between adults, regardless of the gender of the parties. No laws specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or address hate crimes. No criminal justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented incidents of discrimination or violence from being reported. In May at the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network hosted conference for members of the LGBTI community in Tonga, a small religious group held a protest outside the conference venue.

Tuvalu

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and place of origin, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. In 2005 the High Court stated it was a deliberate decision to omit gender as a prohibited basis of discrimination when drafting the constitution.

Sexual conduct between men is illegal, with penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment depending on the nature of the offense, but there were no reports of prosecutions of consenting adults under these provisions. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There are no hate crime laws, nor are there criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community. There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.

9 thoughts on “Human rights in Oceania — lots of work to do

  1. Some people might get confused. Samoa mentioned in this great informative article used to be called Western Samoa to differentiate it from the other section which is still called American Samoa (which has no law criminalizing LGBT people).

    Like

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