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Government Warned On Sex Laws

Pacific Media Watch:

Pasifik Nius:

SUVA: The Fiji Human Rights Commission has warned the government not to pry into the private lives of its citizens, particularly the gay community, the Daily Post reports.

In a communication to Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the commission chairman, Justice Sailosi Kepa, said that clause 4 (g) in the proposed constitutional amendment, which seeks to provide for the prosecution of unnatural offences, indecent assaults and indecent practices, is unconstitutional.

He said the proposed amendment would undermine the equality provisions of the Constitution. Mr Justice Kepa said that the proposed amendment would have the effect of prosecuting sexual activity of gays even in private.

"This amendment is unconstitutional because it would breach the privacy rights of individuals. The right to privacy is both a constitutional and a common law right," he said.

He said clause 4 (g) is also contrary to current interpretations of "sexual orientation" in international law.

Article 2 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which refers to "sex", has been declared by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to include "sexual orientation".

He said this is defined as including sexual relationship between consenting adults.

Mr Justice Kepa said that only "indecent assaults", also included in the clause 4 (g), should be criminalised.

But the state has no business in the private lives of its citizens as long the relationships are between consenting adults.

He said Fiji has a good human rights record internationally and this image will be tarnished if the government goes ahead with its proposal to remove the rights of a section of the population in this way.

Mr Justice Kepa urged the government to put more thought into the proposed amendment and to take into account developments on the subject in international law.

He appealed for compassion towards gays who have suffered discrimination and gross persecution in history. He advised the government not to amend any part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution because these rights have been established after much thought, discussion and consultation.

Attorney-General Anand Singh told Parliament yesterday that when the Constitution was decided, the issue of sexual orientation should have been discussed and ventilated publicly. "This was not done. It has created a lot of problems now and there is uncertainty in the law.

This is an important issue, everybody in this country should know whether homosexuality is against the law or it isn't. It is for this reason we're making the amendments so that questions can be answered," he said.

The President of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Waisea Vuniwa, said the church and the Christian stand is very clear. "We see unnatural offences as sinful and evil and these practices should not be condoned.

We support government moves to criminalise such acts.

The church discourages such acts as much as possible," he said. "A curb should be put on so-called freedom. Freedom should be founded on moral principles and standards given to us by God."


This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific.

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