Te Tiare Association (LGBTQ+) and Pride Cook Islands members and supporters have been working to raise awareness in the community and lobby for a change in the country's Crimes Act that bans same-sex relations. MELINA ETCHES / 20092531
Parliamentarians are expected to delay debate on a draft Crimes Bill that decriminalises homosexuality. However, an MP report claims a majority of the public that participated in consultations want to keep the status quo, where the law doesn’t recognise equal rights for same-sex couples.
is expected to once again delay debate of the controversial Crimes Bill that
effectively decriminalises homosexuality in the Cook Islands.
of Parliament are scheduled to meet this Friday for a one-day sitting of the
House, during which it is expected a progress report will be submitted by a
select committee that has held a series of consultations with the public on the
draft of the Crimes Bill does not include controversial sections in the
existing legislation, which labels “indecency between males” as a crime.
an interim report prepared by the committee says out of 168 written and oral
submissions received by the committee during the public consultation process,
the “majority” wanted the controversial provisions reinstated or included in
the new bill.
report says the Cook Islands Crown Law office has advised inclusion of the
provisions, specifically sections 154, 155, and 159 of the Crimes Act 1969, may
contravene the Constitution.
report notes that Crown Law was tasked with amending the 1969 Crimes Act in
September “to ease the concern raised by the public” over exclusion of the
MP Tingika Elikana, who chairs the select committee, yesterday said that
process is still continuing.
terms of the Crimes Bill, we are seeking further adjournment because we are
waiting at the moment for assistance from Crown Law,” Elikana said.
adjournment of the bill is expected to raise the ire of a number of groups and
individuals that have been lobbying for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
rights group Te Tiare Association has waged a multi-year fight to see the
removal of the provisions in the 1969 law, which list punishment for “indecent
acts” between two males of up to five years in prison.
president Valery Wichman said: “We implore and challenge that the Crimes Bill
select committee will make the right decision and be on the right side of
history and submit their recommendations at the next Parliamentary sitting as
it has been deferred over and over again which has caused angst within our
would like to see the removal of the discriminatory provisions which
criminalise consenting same-sex relations for a more equal Cook Islands.”
select committee report doesn’t provide details on the groups or individuals
that provided 166 written submissions. A footnote in the report says the
written submissions are available from Parliament.
the upcoming sitting, acting Clerk Jeannine Daniel said Parliament is also
expected to receive progress reports by the Agriculture Bill and the To Tatou
Vai Authority Bill select committees.
also expected that Parliamentarians will delay debate on those pieces of
prospective legislation as well.
reports and two amendment bills related to Covid-19 are also expected to be
tabled during the brief sitting, Daniel said.
also be given an opportunity to send Christmas greetings to their constituents
and the nation.