Gay Travellers Warned off Fiji by [British] Government
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
“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
“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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