ENVOY SAYS FIJI NOW WELCOMES GAY VISITORS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive) - Fiji’s High Commission in New Zealand has ended months of confusion in that country by declaring that homosexuals will no longer be arrested for engaging in consensual sex in Fiji.

This follows after a NZ gay film festival offered as prize a trip to Fiji, which sparked protests from gay organizations who thought that legislation prohibiting sodomy and homosexual sexual activities, was still active in Fiji.

The protests also questioned an as yet uncertain legislation that allegedly prevented people living with HIV/AIDs from entering into the country.

According to authorities, no such prohibition exists in Fiji.

Apparently correspondence from the Fiji High Commission in New Zealand cleared the issue after it responded queries to Reel Queer that offered the prize.

The High Commission said the legislation in the Penal Code was overridden by a 2005 High Court decision that retracted the imprisonment of two homosexuals based on human rights issues in Fiji’s Constitution.

The Court had overturned the imprisonment of Australian Thomas McCosker and Dhirendra Nadan, who were convicted by a magistrate’s court in April 2005 for having consensual sex and given two-year jail terms.

"The legal rights of people of the same sex engaging in private consensual sexual activity in Fiji are protected," the High Commission said.

This confirmation has been well received by NZ-based gay organizations and other activists.

"This is a great step forward for the human rights of gay citizens and tourists as well as HIV prevention efforts," says NZ AIDS Foundation Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier.

"The spread of HIV is facilitated by the prejudice, discrimination and marginalization of minority communities," she said.

"Turning gay men into criminals only serves to drive sexual activity underground, making it almost impossible to reach with safe sex information and life-saving condoms."

It is not known whether the winners of the much contentious prize have made their trip into the country.

July 13, 2006

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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