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Historic day: Cook Islands Parliament decriminalises homosexuality

Friday 14 April 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in BREAKING NEWS, National

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Historic day: Cook Islands Parliament decriminalises homosexuality
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

Cook Islands Parliament has repealed provisions in its Crimes Act that criminalised homosexuality.

The Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill 2023 which, among other things, aimed to decriminalise homosexuality was presented to Parliament and went through second and third reading before being passed into law on Friday afternoon.

This Bill amends the Crimes Act 1969 which states men can be jailed for five years for engaging in what’s dubbed “indecent acts” with other men. People hosting these acts in their premises (under section 159) faced up to ten years jail.

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.

Pride Cook Islands president Karla Eggelton said: “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.”

Prime Minister Mark Brown told Parliament this amendment “brings into the 21st century laws which were passed nearly 60 years ago removes legal language that is no longer appropriate in this day and age”.

“Every country in the world, at some stage, has had to deal with this matter of removing discriminatory laws that criminalise people. Our country is no exception,” PM Brown said.

“We are a people of love and respect.  Today we are doing our job as lawmakers. We have removed a discriminatory and unjust law that goes against our constitution and our values as a nation. We are doing what is right and what is just.  We are protecting our people. That is what we have done today.” 

The Amendment Bill aims to also provide more protection for victims of rape and repealed provision that married women can only be raped by their husbands “if they are separated”.

“In addition, growing acceptance of the need for states to respect privacy and not discriminate means that the state should not criminalise consensual anal intercourse, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual context, or other forms of consensual homosexual behaviour.”

  • More in tomorrow’s edition