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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No glbt protections in Pacific Islands, says speaker

Sandra Bernklau
Glbt people in the Pacific Islands have no protection against abuse of their human rights and no mechanisms to address their lack of protection - but New Zealanders can help improve that, according to two speakers at the Human Rights Conference in Wellington.

"I'm here to talk about the legal rights of people in the Pacific... it'll be a short talk because there aren't any," said Sandra Bernklau of the Pacific Region Rights Resource Team."
She and co-speaker Filipo Masaura noted that Fiji, which was once the best Pacific Island nation at legally recognising and protecting its glbt citizens, took a major backward step when the relatively liberal constitution was dismissed by decree by coup leader Frank Bainamarama in 2007, taking Fiji back to its homophobic colonial-based laws by default.
Bernklau listed the prevalence of conservative religious institutions in the Islands as a contributing factor. "There's a complete non-acceptance of non-traditional identities," she said.

Filipo Masaura
Masaura noted that there was particular concern for the Melanesian nations, including Fiji and Papua New Guinea. However he has some sense of optimism for the  future "because the small Pacific nations tend to eventually follow the lead of New Zealand and Australia."
Asked what glbt New Zealanders can do to support positive change for their PI brothers and sisters, Masaura said it is important to network and support and share ideas. He say iInternational govenment funding or human rights work in the Islands has more or less dried upin recent times so pressuring agencies such as NZ Aid could help.


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