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Ashwin Raj Praises Fijian Constitution, Says Progressive

Ashwin Raj Praises Fijian  Constitution, Says Progressive
From left: Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Miki Wali, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj, Alexandra Sua, Andrew Kamanaga and Secretariat of the Pacific Community consultant Chris Yuen at the Pacific Human Rights Conference 2018 at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau on May 28, 2018. Photo: Waisea Nasokia
May 29
14:32 2018


The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj has commended the Fijian Constitution saying that it provides a robust Bill of Rights, one which is progressive.

Mr Raj made the remarks yesterday while speaking at the Pacific Human Rights Conference 2018 at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau.

By this he explained that the Constitution is progressive given that the document included sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

He said: “Section 26 in the Fijian Constitution provides broad and “far-reaching support” for the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) persons living in Fiji, affirming them equal rights and right to live with dignity.”

Mr Raj said the Commission has been working closely with the LGBTI community in Fiji including the civil society organisations, activists, law enforcement agencies and the mainstream media to promote and protect the rights and interests of the LGBTI persons.

Some challenges faced by the LGBTI persons in Fiji which have been highlighted to the Commission include: preclusion of non-heterosexuals from donating blood by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services; bullying in public places and on social media: stereotyping of transgender persons in public places; workplace discrimination and some LGBTI persons have faced physically assault and verbal abuse in public places.

During the public consolations held by the Commission, some LGBTI persons and activists have also raised concern over the way in which the law enforcement agencies conduct body searches when dealing with women and LGBTI members.

“One of the issues highlighted was to avail interpreters when persons living with disability (mute and deaf) were taken in police custody for questioning. The Police also needed to ensure that the person’s hands remained untied so he or she is able to communicate with the police and lawyers using sign language.”

The LGBTI activists also called on the authorities to hold awareness programmes on accessing reproductive health services, contraceptives, counselling screening for HIV and STIs for rural and remote communities.

Mr Raj said the Commission in its alternative report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (fifth periodic review of Fiji), has encouraged the state to undertake the following steps to promote the rights of the women and LGBTI persons:

n Review of the National Gender Policy to align it with the imperatives of the Bill of Rights of the Fijian Constitution which expressly references sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of Discrimination

n Review of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act to enable change of gender in birth certificates consistent with the principles of equality before the law and prohibited grounds of discrimination

n Review of the standard operating procedures of the Fiji Police Force in relation to arrests, body searches conducted on vulnerable groups such as women with disabilities, sex workers, children and LGBTI persons, force procedure and conditions of detention to ensure consistency with human dignity and international human rights law.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

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