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The Cook Islands  made international headlines in 2020 about plans to tighten already old fashioned laws on homosexuality applying them to women as well as men and increasing maximum penalties for breaches. The tourism department, meanwhile, say LGBT+ visitors have always been welcome, but the issue continues to deter some, regardless of their own sexuality. There are promising signs though.  In June, 2021, government law making experts in New Zealand started to review proposed changes which would decriminalise homosexuality in the Islands. It's hoped the Cook Islands government will make a final decision sometime during 2021. Meanwhile, the purpose of this page is provide some useful facts
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
INDECENCY BETWEEN MALES: Up to 5 years in prison; consent is not a defence (Crime Act 1969)
SODOMY: Up to 14 years in prison; consent is not a defence (Crime Act 1969)
MARRIAGE: Same sex marriage is illegal (Marriage Amendment Act 2000 and 2007)
EMPLOYMENT: Discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexual preference is illegal, although this protection can be limited by "doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed" (Employment Relations Act)  
For more details, click here
WHAT THAT MEANS FOR VISITORS
THE CAMPAIGN FOR CHANGE
Lady Tuaine Marstes statement
Lady Tuaine Marsters is the wife of the most important official in the Islands, the Queen's Representative and she's heading up the campaign for change. Te Tiare Association of which she's patron has set out four objectives:
  • Love and acceptance: Freedom of religion is compatible with LGBTI equality: All of the major religions emphasise the importance of love and acceptance.
  • Human rights are universal. Everyone is entitled to the same rights.  Discrimination against LGBTI people is unacceptable and illegal under international human rights law
  • There are no new rights for LGBTI people: We are simply stating that we should enjoy the same rights as everyone else.
  • It's about decriminalisation not marriage equality at the moment
Although a laissez-faire attitude is taken to tourists, public displays of affection would be considered offensive. There are no gay bars or clubs in the Islands. But LGBT+ people can visit the Islands  safe in the knowledge that they will not be persecuted or harassed. The proposed law changes also seems to have encouraged more visibility. The Islands' first ever gay pride day was organised for March, 2020, but like many other events it was postponed indefinitely in response to the coronavirus pandemic. There are hopes of a gay pride day sometime in 2021
Te Tiare Association logo
TE TIARE ASSOCIATION
This page will be updated with new information as and when it becomes available. In the meantime, check out the Islands' LGBT+ organistion by visiting its own website. There's lots of information about itself, human rights, development and education objectives, and copies of the documents it's produced explaining to government its response to the proposed law changes. You can also find out how you can join the association or support it financially.
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