Te Tiare Association
24 July 2017 9.15am
AT THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE
AUDIENCE with the Select Committee on the Amendment to the Crimes Act 1969
Kia Orana tatou katoatoa I teia popongi.
Honorary Chair, honorary members of the Select committee- ladies and gentlemen and other genders.
My name is Valentino Wichman and I am here before you representing someone’s aunty, uncle, parent, cousin, brother, sister and child- someone’s bartender, Lawyer, doctor, costume maker, event planner and babysitter….today I represent the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex)community of the Cook Islands or what we like to term the Rainbow community.
It is with humility and respect that we the Te Tiare Association have come to show our support for the amendments to decriminalise homosexuality in the Crimes Bill 2017
Today our submission will be broken into 3 perspectives:
Firstly the Te Tiare Association as the umbrella Association for our rainbow community in the Cook Islands;
Secondly- the perspective of a parent in support of decriminalisation which will be led by Mrs Tuaine Masters; and
Thirdly a personal account of what it would mean to decriminalise, and this will be led by Ms Tatryana Utanga.
Turning to the first perspective-The Te Tiare Association would like to commend the efforts by all parties in the drafting of this much-needed piece of Legislation.
We note that Sections 154 and 155 of the Crimes Act 1969 establish that any “indecent act” between two men is punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment, and consensual sodomy is punishable with up to seven years.
These provisions have been removed in the Crimes Bill 2017.
Furthermore, we would like to make sure that there are no other provisions that criminalise homosexuality in the Bill going forward.
We would like to support this progressive move by the government in removing these draconian provisions which were inherited from our colonial past and we note that NZ and the UK have decriminalised homosexuality in their respective jurisdictions.
In recent years the issue of homosexuality and the stigma attached with it has become an ever-evolving conversation point. Even though we do not experience the extreme acts of violence and murder against our Rainbow community- we still have people living in fear of being themselves as they feel that they won’t be accepted or shunned by their community or family.
What people tend to forget is that there is a very real personal aspect to this argument of decriminalising homosexuality. Everyone has a family member or friend that is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, and queer or intersex (“LGBTQI”) – There are real people affected behind this debate.
In a recent doctoral study by Dr Debbie Futter- Puati she surveyed College Students and found that over 10% said that they were LGBTQI and that a further 23% of the participants did not know. Given an error margin of 5% that would place the population in schools of LGBTQI at between 15-20%.
A University Of New South Wales HIV/STI behavioural study of transgender, men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who exchanged sex in the Cook Islands 2016 estimated the MSM population to be around 800-1000.
I give you these statistics as evidence to inform the policy decision to decriminalise.
Honorary Chair and members –We have had threats from certain individuals and groups in the country who misunderstand our campaign- We have categorised the backlash into two categories
- The camp that says that homosexuality is against certain religious tenets-especially marriage; and secondly
- The camp that says that there is no problem and that we should forget about it.
To this end we have developed the four (4) tenets of our Decriminalisation campaign
- Love and acceptance:-Freedom of religion is compatible with LGBTQI equality: All of the major religions emphasize the importance of love and acceptance.
- Human rights are universal. Everyone is entitled to the same rights. Discrimination against LGBTQI people is unacceptable and illegal under international human rights law.
- There are no new rights for LGBTQI people being created: We are simply stating that we should enjoy the same rights as everyone else.
- It’s about decriminalisation not marriage equality.
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to make our submission of support for amending the provisions which criminalise homosexuality.
Before, I hand it over to Mrs. Masters for our parent’s perspective I would like to leave you with a quote from the movie Hidden figures- which is about 3 African American women working for NASA in the 1950’s in a time of racial discrimination and which resonates with our campaign against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
“I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice, but to be the first, which I can’t do without you, sir. Your honor, out of all the cases you gon hear today, which one is gon matter hundred years from now? Which one is gon make you the first?”
(Mary Jackson- Hidden Figures 2016).
And this is the challenge honorary members of this Select Committee.
With respect, thank you.