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Institute for Mäori and Indigenous Education

The International Research Institute for Mäori and Indigenous Education

There is no foundation to the claim that homosexuality has no place in Maori society,” says Dr Leonie Pihama, Director of the International Research Centre on Indigenous Education.

Within the last few weeks a number of people have made statements suggesting that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with Christian beliefs. This morning on national television, Bishop Vercoe made a number of claims which would lead people to believe that there is no cultural reason to believe that homosexuality existed in pre-European society and that this justifies the homophobia that exists today.

Recent research into Maori sexuality refutes claims such as those made by Bishop Vercoe. This is supported by Te Herekiekie Herewini, the Kaiwhakahaere for the New Zealand Aids Foundation who states that "there is clear evidence that pre-European Maori sexuality was far more accepting of sexual diversity and difference than is the case today. Furthermore, we know that the imposition of a western way of looking at the world, based on Christian concepts and beliefs, was responsible for an erosion of traditional cultural practices and values. This was especially so in relation to sexuality."

Researcher Dr Clive Aspin also noted that such statements mere serve to create a environment that is unsafe for Mäori gay men and lesbians “It is important that the Maori community and young people in particular are given the opportunity to understand the truth about our sexuality from an historical point of view,” says Dr Aspin. “Inaccurate views of sexuality have had a huge negative impact on young people and we have to work hard to ensure that our young people grow up in a society that is free from discrimination and intolerance around issues related to sexuality.”

“Sexuality plays a fundamental role in how people view themselves. This is especially important with regard to health status. With Maori being disproportionately represented among people with poor health status, there is an obligation on everyone to ensure that people receive clear and accurate information about the history of our sexuality,” states Dr Pihama.

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