Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Director Ashwin Raj.
The inclusion of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity and or expression in the Fijian Constitution is an important legal safeguard.
Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Director, Ashwin Raj says this legal safeguard remains even if Fiji decides not to legalize same-sex marriage.
However, Raj says in the context of prohibited grounds of discrimination, under section 26 (3) of the Constitution, it is worth considering whether one has the right to change gender at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office and whether one has the right to have sex change added to free medical services provided by the State.
His comments come following the University of Fiji’s Dean of Justice, Professor Shaista Shameem’s statement that Fiji’s Marriage Act limits the union of two people to only between a male and a female can be tested in the courts.
Raj says there is no clarity on whether the term “expression” under section 26(3) includes marriage and therefore there is a need to develop jurisprudence in this area.
He adds their priority must be addressing everyday structural violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTI community.
Raj says this includes an interdiction of their rights as arrested and detained persons, hate speeches and cyberbullying, ability to secure gainful employment, discrimination in the health sector, workplace or in schools, intolerance and unacceptance by family and communities.
These he adds often lead to depression, sufferance and ultimately suicide.
Raj suggests Fiji needs to have a calm and rational debate on this sensitive subject, stressing that it must be evacuated from the narrow, parochial and banal question about whether a political party if it comes into power, will allow same-sex marriage.
The Director of Human Rights says politicians will say anything to appease prospective voters in a bid to win votes.
The HRADC Director says the issues are far more complex and the Fijian Constitution provides fertile ground for developing jurisprudence.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama confirmed back in 2016 that same-sex marriage would never be allowed in Fiji.