Members of Pride Cook Islands with Prime Minister Mark Brown and Government MP Tingika Elikana outside Parliament following the passing of the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill 2023 which, among other things, decriminalises homosexuality. DANIEL FISHER/23041501
The Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill 2023 was passed in Parliament on Friday.
things, the Bill decriminalises homosexuality which under the Crimes Act 1969
was punishable by up to five years in jail.
After the passing
of the Bill, Pride Cook Islands president Karla Eggelton said “we have made
“On behalf of
Pride Cook Islands, we congratulate our Prime Minister and his government for
doing the right thing – Love is Love! Te Iti Tangata, hug the ones you love,
and now you can tell them they belong. We are one,” Eggelton said.
Val Wichman, the president of the country’s first LGBTQ+ group Te Tiare Association, was also delighted about the Bill passing.
“Ko Au, Ko Koe, Ko
Tatou, we are United as one family, and one nation,” Wichman told Cook Islands
The Amendment Bill
was supported by the Cook Islands Party led coalition government and Opposition
leader Tina Browne. Cook Islands United Party leader Teariki Heather and
Democratic Party MP Vaitoti Tupa opposed the Bill during the debate.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Mark Brown said “today
is an exceptionally good day to be the Prime Minister”.
“The role of any government is to protect its people
and their rights. We are the government of all our people and not just the
government of some of our people. And as a government we must protect the
rights of all of our people especially the minorities on our communities.
“It is not the job of government to tell people what
their sexuality is. It is not the job of government to absolve sin. It is not
the job of government to tell people how they can or cannot have sex. The
government does not have a place in the bedrooms of our people.
“We are a free country. We have freedom of speech, we
have freedom of expression, we have freedom to worship, we have the freedom to
observe our Sabbath whether it be on Saturday or Sunday, we have freedom to
start a business, we have freedom to work on Saturday or Sunday. We have
freedom to love who we want to; we have freedom to be who we want to be. We all
should have the right to live our lives free from discrimination.
“We are a people of love and respect. Today we have
done our job as lawmakers. We have removed a discriminatory and unjust law that
goes against our constitution and our values as a nation. We have done what is
right and what is just. We are protecting our people.”
The Bills also removes marriage as a defence against
rape, says PM Brown.
“Domestic violence and domestic sexual abuse against
women or against men for that matter can no longer be accepted just because you
are married. No more.”
PM Brown reiterated that the Bill would not impinge on
anyone’s rights of religious expression.