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Celebrating Equality For All

Celebrating Equality For All
From left: Republic of Fiji Military Forces chief of staff Colonel Litea Seruiratu, French Embassy public affairs adviser Moira Vilsoni-Raduva, Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj, Sulique Waqa, French ambassador to Fiji Michel Djokovic, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration Timoci Natuva during the IDAHO celebrations yesterday. Photo: Rainbow Network
May 18
08:07 2016

(The following is the edited text of the French Ambassador to Fiji Michel Djokovic’s speech during the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia yesterday.)

 

Minister for National Security and Defence,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Bonjour! Good morning! Bula vinaka!

It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you here to the Residence of France on this important day – the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia – also known by its acronym IDAHOT.

Today, people all over the world strive to raise awareness against homophobia and transphobia and try to put an end to such an undignified attitude.

Homosexual relations between consenting adults are still considered a crime in some 80 countries, and are punished sometimes very heavily, as seven countries in the world still may decide of death penalty.

In other countries, even when homosexuality or transgender are legally accepted, discriminatory laws and infringements of the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, health, employment, education and immigration are common practice, as are harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, which may even apply to those who defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI) people.

We are here today to stand against this, to claim that no one should face targeting or discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity, to claim freedom of love, to say loud and clear that “LGBTI rights are human rights.”  I am very glad to welcome today so many representatives of Fiji’s LGBTI community.  Most of you here this morning are on the front lines of this issue.

Groups like Haus of Khameleon, Drodrolagi Movement, DIVA, RWN and other human-rights based partner organisations, get together to organise and strategise on how to improve the situation of the LGBTI community in Fiji. These groups have developed ways to better advocate for LGBTI community and also on how to support one another in the face of homophobia and stigmatisation.

I would also like to pay tribute to the UN action on the ground, with special mention to the Office of the UN Human Rights commissioner here in Suva.

The launch of the “Free and equal campaign” last August is still in everybody’s mind and I am sure many of you remember the speech delivered on that day by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, a tireless advocate of the LGBTI communities, and now a UN regional goodwill ambassador for the fight against AIDS.

France stands against homophobia and transphobia and was at the forefront of the IDAHOT movement – its first Committee chairperson, Mr Louis-Georges Tin, was a Frenchman.

France has been a longtime advocate at the UN, and truly rejoiced when the first United Nations resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2011.

France, the Netherlands, Norway and four NGOs joined forces in 2010 to set up an International “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” support fund.

The aim of this unique fund, operated by “France Expertise Internationale”, on behalf of the French government, is to bring together the many agencies involved in fighting homophobia and transphobia (both public and private).

This fund supports local initiatives in countries where the issue of discrimination is too sensitive to be tackled publicly.

You probably know that France has decided to legalise same sex marriage in May 2013, thus becoming the 14th country to do so.

This new law has benefited around 10 000 couples per year, that is to say more or less four per cent of all weddings celebrated in France every year.

IDAHOT day is celebrated in more than 120 countries today and there is a growing consensus on the fact that there should not be any restriction to the freedom of love between consenting adults.

Even if the situation in the Pacific remains difficult, I would like to commend Fiji and the Bainimarama government that decriminalised homosexuality.

The 2013 Constitution, in the bill of rights (article 26-3), guarantees fundamental human rights for everyone without any discrimination.

Despite these significant progress, much remains to be done in order to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sexual citizens are recognised just as what they are: human beings entitled to dignity and equality of rights.

Merci beaucoup! Vinaka Vakalevu! Thank you !

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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