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“Fiji’s gays don’t need ‘saving’”

11 November 2005

“Fiji’s gays don’t need ‘saving’” says NZ AIDS Foundation

Programmes aimed at trying to turn homosexual people into heterosexuals in order to “save” them, risk causing severe psychological harm to the individuals who participate in them, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says.

The Foundation was reacting to a statement from the Methodist Church in Fiji, which has been campaigning to change the human rights protection provisions in Fiji’s constitution to remove reference to sexual orientation.

The church - which has organised anti-gay marches and publicly called for homosexuals to be put to death - says the constitutional changes are needed to prevent gay marriage in Fiji. Its most recent statement on Radio New Zealand International claimed that homosexuals can be “cured” through reparative therapy and has claimed to have “saved” a small number of gays through this process already.

“Authoritative medical and psychiatric organisations the world over have condemned these so-called reparative therapies as dangerous, unnecessary and likely to produce harm rather than good,” NZAF Executive Director Rachael le Mesurier said. “They are based on assumption that homosexuality is an illness or aberration. It is not. Since 1973 homosexuality has been recognised as a naturally occurring variant of human sexual orientation, not chosen, and not something that that requires treatment or cure.”

Ms Le Mesurier noted that the American Psychiatric Association (one of the world’s leading representatives of authoritative psychiatric thinking) says this of reparative therapies:

“Potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self destructive behaviour . . . (they) reinforce self hatred already experienced by the patient.”

Ms Le Mesurier says that homosexual people can experience satisfying, fulfilling lives and relationships and can actively and constructively contribute to the health and well-being of their communities. Indeed, she said, they held such places in many Pacific cultures before the advent of Christian colonialism.

She recalled the remarks made by the Speaker of Fiji’s House of Representatives, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, at the recent Pan Pacific conference on HIV and AIDS in Auckland, New Zealand, where he said that Pacific leaders and churches needed to “return homosexuals to their traditional accepted place in society and encourage legislation for equal human rights for gay men and other minorities.”

Where homosexuality has been associated with negativity and destructive lifestyles it has nearly always been the result of the pressures created by social isolation, discrimination and prejudice, Ms Le Mesurier said.

“A more inclusive and accepting attitude from the Methodist church will do far more for the health, emotional and spiritual well-being of Fiji’s gays than will any scientifically shoddy and prejudice-based attempt to “fix” what doesn’t need fixing,” she said.

ENDS

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