Battle to Preserve Constitutional Rights for Lesbians and Gay Reignites
Urgent Letters Needed Within The Next Week!
EMERGENCY RESPONSE NETWORK
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
------------------- Action Alert! -------------------
On behalf of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights in Fiji, activists from Women's Action
for Change (WAC) have issued this urgent call for letters of support within the next week
for the preservation of protections based on sexual orientation recently enshrined in the
new Fiji Constitution:
Once again the gay and lesbian community of Fiji is under threat. The newly elected
government is putting forward an Act to amend the 1998 Constitution. The fourth section in
the Bill, addressing issues of "equality", defines marriage as the union of one
woman and one man "to the exclusion of all others" and provides for the
persecution of sodomy (defined as "unnatural acts")--and effectively eliminates
protections based on sexual orientation enshrined in the new Constitution. Fiji is one of
only three countries in the world that explicitly identifies sexual orientation as a
status protected from discrimination under the Constitution--rightfully receiving
recognition for its contribution to setting this landmark international precedent. It is
these protections, however, that officials wish to remove.
In early 1999, the previous government introduced a similar Bill. They suggested the
amendments after Christian fundamentalists marched on Constitution Day, calling for the
removal of the phrase "sexual orientation" from section 38(a) of the
Constitution, the document's anti-discrimination clause. They claimed this section would
encourage gay marriages and legalise sodomy. However, due to international pressure
provided by groups and individuals who had been advised by IGLHRC, and concerted local
lobbying, the Bill was shelved.
It resurfaced in Parliament on 14 February 2000 when the Prime Minister reintroduced
it. Proponents of the Bill then by-passed Standing Orders--the procedure followed when
government is trying to fast-track a Bill or amendment through Parliament. The Bill has
become an Act since it has been tabled in Parliament. This means we have to lobby against
the Bill this week before it returns for the first reading.
------------------- Urgent Letters Needed! -------------------
------------------- You Can Fax Us And We Will Forward!
We are writing to request urgent support in the way of faxed letters or posted letters
to the officials named below.
*** Supporters may send faxes (those on official letterhead are especially encouraged)
to IGLHRC at 01-415-255-8662 by WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, at 3PM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME, and
we will forward this correspondence to the necessary parties.
(Scroll down to see suggested points and sample letter)
Prime Minister Honorable Mahendra Chaudhry
Prime Minister's Office Government Buildings
(679) 211 216 (Phone)
(679) 306 034 (Fax)
Leader of Opposition Honorable Ratu Inoke Kubuabola
(679) 305 811 (P)
(679) 305 317 (F)
Attorney General Honorable Anand Kumar Singh
(679) 905 233 (P)
(679) 305 421 (F)
Solicitor General Mr. Nainendra Nand
(679) 302 404 (F)
Please send copies of letters to: Women's Action For Change P.O. Box 12398 Suva, FIJI
Phone: (679) 314 363, Fax: (679) 305 033
------------------- A Message From WAC -------------------
It is imperative that we get overseas support as we cannot make a big noise here
because of the power of the Christian church. It is unsafe to go public, but WAC is
generating NGO support to write to parliamentary and civil leaders etc. Your support would
be greatly appreciated.
WAC Sexual Minorities Programme WAC Management Collective
On behalf of the following members of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights Fiji Women's
Crisis Centre AIDS Task Force of Fiji Citizens Constitutional Forum
------------------- Points To Be Made In Your Letter
- Fiji is only one of three countries that protects sexual orientation in the
- Fiji has received world recognition for its democratic Constitution but now the
government is wanting to change it, on the very issues that brought it to international
- By their very actions, the Fiji Government is going against Constitutional rights of all
people in Fiji.
------------------- Sample Letter -------------------
We are appalled at the introduction to Parliament of Bill No.1 of 2000 that was tabled
by the Prime Minister. The Bill is entitled "A Bill for an Act to Amend the
Constitution". We believe this Bill has been fast tracked in order for it to by-pass
Section 4 of the Bill that aims to amend Section 38 of the Constitution, directly
affects the rights of Homosexuals (Sexual Minorities). Passing this amendment will deny
Human Rights to some citizens of Fiji. The Bill contravenes the existing Fiji Constitution
that has received international recognition for its strong Human Rights stance. When a
similar Bill was placed before the last Government, the Opposition was very strong in its
assurance that they would never support such amendments to the Constitution. Yet this Bill
does precisely that. Now you, the very same people who opposed these amendments when in
opposition, have broken all pledges and assurances by considering passing them.
The 1990 Constitution was based on prejudice and discriminated against many citizens of
Fiji. This bill is also prejudicial in its intent and will discriminate against many Fiji
We urge you to take the necessary steps to stop the passing of this bill.
------------------- Additional Background Information
Text of the Constitution of The Fiji Islands (Ratified July 27, 1998)
Chapter 4--Bill of Rights: Section 38, 1 and 2: (1) Every person has the right to
equality before the law. (2) A person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly
or indirectly, on the ground of his or her: (a) actual or supposed personal
characteristics or circumstances, including race, ethnic origin, colour, place of origin,
gender, sexual orientation, birth, primary language, economic status, age or disability;
or (b) opinions or beliefs, except to the extent that those opinions or beliefs involve
harm to others or the diminution of the rights or freedoms of others; or on any other
ground prohibited by this Constitution.
------------------- About IGLHRC -------------------
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1991, is
a San Francisco-based non-governmental human rights organization. IGLHRC's primary work is
to monitor, document and mobilize responses to human right abuses against lesbians, gay
men, bisexuals, transgendered people, people with HIV and AIDS, and those oppressed due to
their sexual identities or sexual conduct with consenting adults.
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