Let’s Support Ashwin Raj And Give LGBT Community Respect It’s Entitled To Under Constitution
The alleged attack on two gay men early Sunday morning in Valelevu is disturbing. The alleged assault itself is a criminal act and serious. That it was motivated by anti-gay sentiments is even more alarming and totally unacceptable.
Any bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability should be condemned in the strongest possible term.
Ashwin Raj, the director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and an advocate of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT), has come out strongly to condemn the alleged attack.
He said people should speak out because “silence will mean fear and discrimination will flourish.”
He needs all our support. We must show that we do not condone attacks on members of the LGBT.
Our Constitution is strongly against any form of discrimination including sexual orientation.
The two gay men say they now live in fear because if they report the matter to Police or speak out, they could face reprisal from the perpetrators of the alleged attack. They should not live in fear. They should also know their rights. They can live without fear of reprisals and recrimination because of their expression of a sexual value.
We as a society must strongly condemn these acts of violence. As Mr Raj says violence begets violence and we do not want to encourage that in our community.
The gay men enjoy equal rights like everyone else. We should treat them with the same dignity and respect we accord to others.
Hate crime or bias-motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is.
While an act of violence against any individual is always a tragic event, violent crimes based on prejudice have a much stronger impact because of the motive behind the crime.
It is usually intended to send a message to that community that what they do is not acceptable.
In the absence of statistical information on attacks against LGBT community members, it is difficult to know the extent of the problem here in Fiji.
Noelene Nabulivou, an advocate on gay rights, said they were in the process of compiling a database because none had existed before.
While they did not have information on physical attacks they said they knew that verbal attacks happened all the time.
Fiji has made significant progress in recognising and respecting gay and lesbian rights. To get here we’ve had to change mindsets from a strong culturally and religiously held anti-gay position to a liberal stand.
Sunday’s alleged incident shows that there are pockets of resistance to change still out there and they manifest themselves from time to time.
The concept of equality in the Constitution knows no barrier. Irrespective of our differences and backgrounds we are all equal before the law.
Hate crimes originate from biases or prejudices against those who are different from us. We hear of reports of incidents, but they are not reported to the Police.
This is probably why we have yet to see anyone being prosecuted for crimes against members of the LGBT community.
Like Mr Raj, we must stand up and support the rights of our LGBT community members.