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SAMOA’S FA‘AFINE FIGHT FOR RIGHTS Transgender males seek legal protection

By Charlina Tone APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, May 29, 2011) - The Samoa Fa’afafine Association [SFA] is proposing for change to the Crimes Ordinance Act to legalize certain activities they see as infringing on their human rights.

A two-day conference to explain to its members why they have submitted for some changes ended yesterday.

The Association aimed at amendments to laws against sodomy, indecent acts between males and female impersonation, among others. The association’s submissions will be made to the Law Reform Commission.

Technical Adviser, Ymania Brown says a lot of the fa’afafines present did not know that these activities were illegal.

"Wearing female clothing in public is illegal and can incur a two-year imprisonment sentence. We submitted a proposal on this because it is infringing on our human rights especially given the contribution of fa’afafine to the Government and the community," says Miss Brown.

"Most of our members don’t know it’s illegal and don’t know we have submitted for a change," says the transvestite.

SFA is also proposing the legalization of sodomy by reviewing section 58 of the Crimes Ordinance.

"When fa’afafine and men get together it’s obvious what they are going to be doing," Miss Brown explains.

"The issue is the state has no business legislating what two individuals are performing in the bedroom …as long as it is consensual."

Miss Brown admits that attitudes have changed towards fa’afafine over the years and they are now fully accepted into society.

"We have been accepted for a long time now. We are not asking for special treatment but we just want to be left alone to make our contribution to society without worrying about being discriminated against," she says.

An example of this acceptance is the selection of a fa’afafine to be the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of a Government Ministry.

Roger Stanley is an ACEO for the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.

He says fa’afafines are not trying to be women.

"We have our own identity [fa’asinomaga] which we are proud of," she says.

Miss Brown explains that fa’afafines know there are only two genders in Samoa, male and female.

"We are part of the male gender and we are not trying to become females but through division of labour we can do girls’ and boys’ jobs."

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