New Zealand has commented for the first time on changes to the Cook Islands’ Crimes Act, mired in controversy over a select committee decision to reinstate criminal bans on same-sex relations and sodomy.
The High Commission commended the Crimes amendment bill as it had been introduced in 2017. “We see this as a very positive progression for the Cook Islands, and an opportunity for the Cook Islands to contribute to a more inclusive and fair society.”
New Zealand has previously indicated that New Zealand citizenship comes with expectations that those citizens be treated fairly and equally.
The High Commission also acknowledged yesterday: “New Zealand recognises that it is for the Cook Islands as a self-governing country to determine its own legislation.”
The diplomatic statement comes as select committee chairman Tingika Elikana visits New Zealand and meets with New Zealand Government MP Louisa Wall, an architect of same-sex equality laws in that country.
Wall has public criticised the committee’s decision to reinstate a jail sentence for same-sex relations. She told Cook Islands News she hoped to discuss the issue with Crimes Bill select committee chairman Tingika Elikana when they meet today.
Wall hosted Elikana and other Pacific MPs, who are in New Zealand for a parliamentary forum, at her office in Auckland this week.
Wall is to be a guest at a Pride celebration in Rarotonga next month, and said she was more than happy to support Te Tiare Association’s select committee submission arguing for equal treatment under the law and in accordance with the Constitution.
She has signed an online petition opposing criminalisation of homosexuality in the Cook Islands.
The same sex ban was an “archaic law” that needed to change to give the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex (LGBT+) community equal rights as others citizens of the country, Wall said.
“We need leaders of tomorrow to lead today. We can’t be living in the past, it’s time to move on,” she argued.
“The criminalising of homosexuality is directly linked to colonisation. This law has served to undermine whakapapa and whanau relationships and the criminalisation of our LGBT+ family members has led to discrimination, marginalisation, abuse and ongoing trauma.”
The select committee is now reconsidering its recommendations on the Crimes Bill after hearing a new submission from Te Tiare Association. The committee plans to report to Parliament by February, before Parliament’s MPs make the final decision on the law.