17 May 2020 marked the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The day is marked worldwide to raise awareness on the discrimination and human rights violations faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community. In line with this year’s theme, the Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) stands in solidarity with the LGBTQI community and human rights defenders in “Breaking the Silence” against discrimination, stigma and violence.
NGOCHR member Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality Fiji in their recent statement highlighted their groundbreaking 2018 research report, “Unjust, Unequal, Unstoppable: Fiji Lesbians, Bisexual women, Transmen and Gender Non-Conforming People tipping the scales toward justice.”
DIVA for Equality Fiji stated, “We are working to end the active process of silencing, marginalisation, shaming, stigma, discrimination, violence and murder of LGBTQI and people around the world.”
The study found that 84 per cent of LBT women and gender non-conforming people (GNCP) have experienced physical intimate partner violence. Over half of the LBT women and GNCP surveyed have been verbally abused due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Another 44 per cent who had experienced sexual assault said they would never tell anyone except close friends as there is a high degree of distrust of the wider Fiji society.
NGOCHR observer, Haus of Khameleon also released a statement to commemorate IDAHOT,
“Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics have a right to equal access to opportunities, services and their safety including access to justice and health services. The LGBTIQA+ community must always be protected even during these times of the pandemic.”
“This is especially relevant now with the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which exacerbates the situation for already marginalised communities. On top of this, we’re in recovery mode post- TC Harold. This is a pivotal time to raise awareness and prioritise human rights to ensure no one is left behind,” said NGO Coalition on Human Rights Chair Nalini Singh.
The Fiji Constitution prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but there remain limiting provisions that are barriers to their full recognition and protection. In Fiji and the Pacific, violence and stigma faced by the LGBTQI community is disturbingly prevalent and often invisible because of the entrenched patriarchal culture of “silence.”
“More needs to be done to address human rights violations against the LGBTQI community. As we move towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and TC Harold, we must ensure that national responses and relief packages are responsive to these human rights issues,” said Ms Singh.
“There’s a need to promote a human-rights based approach in challenging community attitudes that harm people. This begins with all of us as individuals to break the silence and join in solidarity to promote and protect LGBTQI rights and all human rights,” she said.