The New Zealand High Commission and the Australian High Commission to the Cook Islands recognised the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by flying the Progress Pride flags on their masts in Rarotonga in May this year. 21051740.
Observers have voiced exasperation over Parliament’s delaying tactics in moving forward with a draft bill that, if passed in its current form, would decriminalise homosexuality in the Cook Islands.
yesterday’s flash two-hour session of Parliament, MPs granted another extension
of six months to a committee tasked with examining the Crimes Bill – a sweeping
piece of legislation drafted in 2017.
bill seeks to replace the existing criminal code and in its current form
decriminalises homosexuality in the Cook Islands.
current law says the offence of “indecent acts” between two males is punishable
by up to five years in prison, drawing continued protests from community
members who are fighting for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
current draft of the bill does not include controversial sections in the
existing legislation, which labels “indecency between males” as a crime.
inability to move forward on the matter has drawn the ire of human rights
advocates and same-sex groups, as well as community and business leaders.
lack of any confidence in the select committee to do the job that they’ve been
tasked with,” said Dr Debi Futter-Puati, a vocal supporter of same-sex rights
and director of the University of the South Pacific Cook Islands.
despair that we’ll ever get MPs to be able to honour the Constitution and
treaties and conventions that we have signed on to that relate to the human
right of all Cook Islands citizens.”
Eggelton, president of Pride Cook Islands said: “While I am disappointed at yet
again another delay, I am hopeful that this extension will give our leaders the
opportunity to make the right decision for equal human rights.”
part of its mandate, the Crimes Bill select committee has been tasked to
scrutinise the bill and provide recommendations to Parliament after carrying
out public consultations. Committees are composed of Government and Opposition
Members of Parliament.
committee has received a string of extensions from December 2019, September
2020, and again in November last year, when an additional six-month extension
was granted after the committee requested time to make changes to the bill
after a public consultation process.
MP Tingika Elikana, who chairs the select committee, said further changes need
to be made to the bill before a final committee report is tabled with
are seeking an extension of time before we table our report because Crown law
is making some amendments and changes to the bill,” Elikana said.
asked if this would be the final request for deferral by the committee, he
said: “I am hoping so, because the committee has made their decisions, now it’s
with Crown Law to redraft the bill.”
interim report drafted by the committee and submitted to Parliament after the November
deferral claimed out of 167 submissions received during the public consultation
process, the “majority” wanted the status quo in place, where homosexuality
remains a criminal offence.
other parliamentary committee reports, the report did not include the names of
individuals and groups who provided submissions to the Crimes Bill committee.
was adjourned yesterday afternoon until June 8, when it is expected Government
will table the 2021-2022 Appropriation Bill (budget).