Fiji Rights Endangered
January 6, 1999
Fijian activists have issued an urgent call for support as the Parliament considers
whittling away their newly-won rights.
Gay and lesbian activists in Fiji are calling for international letters of support to
preserve their newly-won constitutional protections from discrimination. The 1998 national
constitution is only the second in the world to explicitly prohibit discrimination based
on sexual orientation (Section 38(2) of the Bill of Rights), following South Africa. But
as soon as it was adopted, religious conservatives led by the Fiji Council of Churches and
the Methodist Church of Fiji raised fears that this would mean legal same-gender
marriages. Even though Attorney General Ratu Eruate Tavai quickly rejected those claims,
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka directed him to have the Parliament develop amendments to
specifically prohibit same-gender marriages and retain the nations sodomy law. The
Parliaments Committee on Consequential Legislation agreed, the Parliamentary Counsel
drafted the measure, and the amendment is expected to be enacted soon.
The Australian Council for Lesbian and Gay Rights has already called on their Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer to urge Fiji to preserve the protections in its Bill of Rights;
a spokesperson for the group said, "We are also concerned that qualifying or removing
protections for lesbians and gay men will set a precedent for eliminating other
constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms."
On behalf of the Fijian Coalition on the Right to Sexual Orientation (including the
Fiji Womens Crisis Centre, Womens Action for Change, Fiji Womens Rights
Movement, and Citizens Constitutional Forum), the International Gay and Lesbian Human
Rights Commission is urgently requesting letters to: Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, Prime
Ministers Office, Parliament Complex, Box 2352, Government Buildings, Republic of
Fiji (fax 011-679-305-204) and Leader of Opposition, Opposition Office, Box 2352,
Government Buildings, Republic of Fiji (fax 011-679-305-317), with copies to the Fiji
Womens Crisis Centre, 88 Gordon St., P.O. Box 12882, Suva, Fiji (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
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