Last edited: April 16, 2005

Gay Travellers Warned off Fiji by [British] Government UK, April 13, 2005

By Ben Townley

The [British] government has warned lesbian and gay travellers planning to visit Fiji of the island’s “complex” attitude towards sexual diversity, in light of the recent arrest of a gay Australian tourist for having sex.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued the warning after Thomas Maxwell McCoskar was arrested for having sex with local man Dhirendra Nandan.

The men were given two year prison sentences, with ruling magistrate Syed Muhktar Shah admonishing them for bringing “shame” to the Pacific country. He told the court that their ‘crimes’ would make “any decent person vomit”.

Both men were released on bail yesterday.

The FCO has updated its advice to travellers, warning that lesbian and gay tourists should be wary of the island’s often conflicting stance on gay issues.

Despite homosexuality being illegal, laws do protect gay people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, the FCO says that traditions should not be mistaken for leniency towards homosexuality.

“Gay and lesbian travellers should note that Fijian attitudes towards homosexuality are complex,” the update reads.

“Despite examples of cross-dressing within the traditional Pacific culture, there can be aggressive outbursts against homosexuality.”

“A further complication is that whilst the 1997 Constitution provides for sexual freedom and equality, primary legislation still exists which prohibits homosexual acts, even in private.”

Meanwhile, protestors in Australia—and across the globe—are still calling on the country’s government to intervene in the case and ensure McCoskar is freed. They say the ruling against the pair goes against the discrimination laws and violates human rights.

McCoskar and Nandan were freed on bail after they contested the magistrates comments, and argued their sentence was a result of his prejudice towards LGBT people.

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