Pacific Island Nation Under Fire Over Sodomy Laws
(Conservative Christian), April 18, 2005
Pacific Rim Bureau
By Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com International Editor
The government of Fiji is coming under growing pressure
to change its laws after a court in the Pacific island nation jailed two men
for having sex.
Thomas McCoskar, a 55-year-old Australian tourist, and
23-year-old Fijian delivery man Dhirendra Nadan are out on bail and will
appeal their convictions later this month.
They were accused of having sex and taking photographs of
one another while naked over a 10-day period in late March and early April.
Homosexual sexual activity is illegal in the former
British colony, a situation defended by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on the
basis of biblical teaching that sex between men is sinful.
One article of the penal code outlaws “carnal knowledge
of any person against the order of nature” while another prohibits “any
act of gross indecency” between two men, “whether in public or private.”
The case has sparked protests in Fiji and Australia, and
the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the convictions violated
international human rights principles and Fiji’s own constitution, which
prohibits discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”
The Fiji Times quoted Qarase as saying other countries
should not interfere with Fiji’s legal processes, while opposition parties
argued that the constitution should take precedence over any law inconsistent
Australia protested to the Fijian government that its
citizen was effectively denied consular assistance because the trial was held
without Australian diplomats’ knowledge. McCoskar has received consular help
since his conviction.
Australian opposition parties accuse Canberra of not
speaking out on the homosexuality aspect itself.
“The government’s silence on this issue looks like a
tacit endorsement of the discriminatory homophobic views of the Fijian prime
minister and the magistrate who jailed these men,” said Senator Kerry
Nettle, a representative of the Green party.
Fifty-two percent of Fiji’s 880,000 people are
Christians, with the majority Methodists. Along with sugar exports, tourism is
the key earner of foreign exchange, but the government does not encourage
“sex tourism” of the type associated with some Asia-Pacific holiday
“Fijians are by nature modest people,” advises
Britain’s foreign and commonwealth office (FCO). “Topless bathing and
nudity in public is forbidden.”
An FCO travel advisory updated in recent days noted
“Gay and lesbian travelers should note that Fijian
attitudes towards homosexuality are complex,” it said.
“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.”
Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade
says in a travel notice: “Australians are reminded that when overseas, they
are subject to local laws ... a violation of local laws may result in a jail
sentence, served in a local prison. Homosexual acts are illegal in Fiji.”
The State Department’s travel information on Fiji does
not refer specifically to the issue, but carries a generic warning: “While
in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and
regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United
States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under
[Home] [World] [Fiji]