This island nation is set to decriminalise homosexuality

cook islands flickr

The Cook Islands are moving to decriminalise homosexuality.

The nation of 15 islands, which sits in the south Pacific between Hawaii and New Zealand, outlawed male homosexuality in 1969.

But a new Crimes Bill would overturn the current law, removing the two sections which ban gay sex.

cook islands crimes act excerpt

Cook Islands Crimes Act 1969

The country, which has a population of 21,000, created the bill’s current draft with help from New Zealand, according to Cook Islands News.

It would eliminate sections 154 and 155 of the 48-year-old law, under which men face up to seven years in prison for gay sex, or five for “any indecent act with or upon any other male”.

The laws even specifically state: “It is no defence to a charge under this section that the other party consented.”

Tellingly, the two sections come directly before a law about bestiality.

The nation’s only LGBTI community group, the Te Tiare Association, has welcomed the move.

Palm Grove's Beach, Vaimaaga, Rarotonga, Cook Islands flickr


Group member Valentino Wichman said the law’s homophobic sections were “draconian provisions” which originated in British colonial rule.

He pointed out that New Zealand and Britain have long decriminalised homosexuality in their own countries.

In fact, last month Britain marked 50 years since partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

“Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to make our submission of support for amending the provisions which criminalise homosexuality,” Wichman added.

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Wichman said that LGBT people still live in fear on the islands, especially because they are often shunned by their family and friends.

“What people tend to forget is that there is a very real personal aspect to this argument of decriminalising homosexuality,” he said.

“Everyone has a family member or friend that is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer or intersex. There are real people affected behind this debate.”

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There are still around 70 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal.

And decriminalising homosexuality does not completely fix society, as Britain has found.

A PinkNews poll conducted for the 50th anniversary showed that 42 percent of Brits who have an opinion believe that gay sex is not natural.