Olympic Kiss and Olympic Rings at St Pancras Station, London by Chris Beckett
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisjohnbeckett/

State-sponsored homophobia in Olympic nations (part 3)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, every four years 205 nations come together in a glorious celebration of diversity through sport. In London’s athletes’ village there are 21 openly gay sports-people doing their best to excel.

In part one we looked at gay rights in Africa.  Only South Africa showed us a medal-worthy performance in the field of LBGT equality.  In part two we looked at gay rights in Asia, and we only awarded a few silver medals (and several warnings about homosexuality attracting the death penalty).

In this instalment we turn our attention to Oceania.  I’m afraid that things are not going swimmingly. (See what I did there? Punny, wasn’t it?)

Anyhow, since we’re talking about swimming, let’s start with countries with swim-up cocktail bars.

In 1997, Fiji was a world leader in human rights – the Fijian constitution specifically banned discrimination on the basis on sexuality.   Of course, the constitution was abrogated when the military took power, which hasn’t gone well:  in May 2012 the Fijian Police cancelled a gay-pride march.

While Vanuatu decriminalised homosexuality in 2007, they haven’t provided non-discrimination protections. It’s also perfectly legal to discriminate against gay people in the Marshall Islands, even in areas like employment, housing, health-care, essential services, shop keepers are also within their rights not to sell to gay people.

Hate crimes are legal in Micronesia; discrimination is widespread and adolescent sex education programs call homosexuality “abnormal sexual behaviour”.  Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati use the same laws that forbid bestiality to ban homosexuality.  In Kiribati, even buying a guy a drink with a view to shagging attracts a 5-year prison sentence.

Some countries think that there are degrees of gayness: In Papua New Guinea anal sex attracts 14 years in prison, while a blow-job (or other homosexual act) gets 3 years in prison.  In the Solomon Islands, having anal sex is punishable by 14 years in prison, while attempting anal sex attracts 7 years in prison.  Any other act of “gross indecency” is punishable by 5 years in prison.

I can’t help but wonder at what point is anal sex successful? Is it penetration, or completion? Does duration count for anything?  If an older man took a Viagra, could he be charged with “intent to f**k”?

Nauru has the strictest penalty for homosexuality in all of Oceania – 14 years hard labour.  Since 2011, Nauru has been “actively considering” decriminalising male homosexuality.  My political staffer friends tell me that in government terms the phrase “under consideration” means that they’ve lost the file, while the phrase “under active consideration” means that they’re trying to find it.

But there are reasons to be hopeful.

Samoan culture has historically been tolerant of a third-gender (raising some boys as girls and calling the fa’afafine, but these boys are not gay – they are what we would call “transgendered”.  Outside of this context any form of non-straight sex attracts 7 years in prison.

It is unfortunate that some New Zealand Pacific Island territories have separate legislatures that refuse to decriminalise homosexuality, because there are only two-forms of state-sponsored discrimination in New Zealand. The first is the title on the certificate (“civil union”, rather than “marriage”), and the other is that gay couples can’t adopt as a couple (single men are banned from adopting female children).

New Zealand is, so far, the only country to come close to challenging South Africa’s gold-medal performance.  Well, New Zealand has always tried to be a forward-thinking nation: they were the first country to have universal female suffrage.

On the other hand, Australia has stopped short, it recognises gay relations relationships, and uses marriages solemnised overseas as proof of a de facto relationship, however the Marriage Act specifically forbids anyone calling these relationships marriages.  If only we competed with the Kiwis and South Africans on LGBT rights the same way we go hammer-and-tongs at sport.

In part 4 we look at gay rights in The Americas.

Let’s go off-topic for a moment: in the Olympics, countries with large populations have an advantage over smaller countries: more people means more chance for genetic abnormalities to crop up that can lead to an uber-athlete.  One of our supporters has normalised Olympic results by population – so that we can see a different way to compare relative Olympic performances of the participating countries – it makes for interesting reading.

In the meantime, here is a table summarising gay rights in Oceanic countries:

Oceania
Country Legal? Protection? Marriage? Comments
American Samoa Yes No No
Australia Yes Yes No Australia recognises gay relationships and uses overseas marriage certificates as proof of a relationship, however the Marriage Act specifically forbids anyone calling these relationships “marriages”.
Cook Islands Male – 7 years in prisonFemale – Legal No No Cook Island straight men want to watch.
Fiji Legal Unclear No Fijian family law specifically bans recognising same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Guam Legal No No
Kiribati 14 years in prison No No
Marshall Is Legal since 2005 No No Discrimination is perfectly acceptable in any area of life, from housing to employment to essential services like healthcare.
Micronesia Legal No No Hate crimes are legal and sex education programs call homosexuality “abnormal sexual behaviour”.
Nauru Male – 14 years hard-labourFemale – legal No No Since 2011, Nauru has been “actively considering” decriminalising male homosexuality.
New Zealand Legal Yes Civil Union since 2005 Unfortunately some New Zealand Pacific Island territories have separate legislatures and refuse to decriminalise homosexuality.
Palau Illegal No No
Papua N Guinea 14 years in prison No No In PNG homosexual anal sex attracts 14 years in prison,other homosexual acts get 3 years in prison.
Samoa 7 years in prison No No While Samoan culture has historically been tolerant of homosexuality (raising some boys as girls and calling) The fa’afafine are closer to what we in the west would call “a third gender” than what we call “gay”.
Solomon Islands 14 years in prison No No In the Solomon Islands, having anal sex is punishable by 14 years in prison, while attempting anal sex attracts 7 years in prison.  Any other act of “gross indecency” is punishable by 5 years in prison.
Tonga Male – 10 years in prison, Female – legal No No Bestiality laws also ban male homosexuality in Tonga
Tuvalu Male – 14 years in prison No No Bestiality laws also ban male homosexuality in Tuvalu
Vanuatu Legal since 2007 No No It’s still ok to fire people for being gay, deny them a rental house, or refuse to provide essential services (like healthcare).
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