NATION

International Jurist Applauds Fiji’s Laws

A distinguished  retired judge of the High Court of Australia has applauded Fiji’s laws on discrimination addressed in our Constitution. The Honourable Michael Kirby made the observations during the second
02 Nov 2014 12:11
International Jurist Applauds Fiji’s Laws
Retired judge of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby. Photo: Sheik Dean

A distinguished  retired judge of the High Court of Australia has applauded Fiji’s laws on discrimination addressed in our Constitution.

The Honourable Michael Kirby made the observations during the second Sir Moti Tikaram Memorial Lecture at the University of Fiji in Lautoka on Friday night. Mr Kirby is also chair of the United Nations Human Rights Councils Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea.

He addressed the participants speaking on the topic of ‘Regarding Others as Ourselves: Law and Dignity’, to honour the distinguished life and legal career of the Late Sir Moti Tikaram, one of Fiji’s longest serving judges.

He applauded Section 26 of the Constitution, under the Bill of Rights, on the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

“Fiji is definitely a leader. Its laws have been significantly changed; laws that criminalise gays changed in parts of the Constitution which forbids discrimination of other people of the grounds of sexual orientation,” he said.

Section 26 (3) states: “A person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly on the grounds of his or her –

(a)   Actual or proposed personal characteristics or circumstances, including race, culture, ethnic or social origin, colour, place of origin, sex, gender identity and expression, birth, primary language, economic or social or health status, disability, age religion, conscience, marital status of pregnancy.”

And subsection 7 states: “Treating one person of a place differently from another on any grounds prescribed under subsection (3) is discrimination, unless it can be established that the difference in treatment is not unfair in the circumstances.”

“Thinking about minorities who are sometimes different from others but respecting their right to dignity and respecting their right to have an unstressed professional life,” Mr Kirby said.

“Fiji is only the second country in the world to insert in its constitution the requirement of no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The first was Nelson Mandela’s South Africa.

“This is something the late Sir Moti Tikaram always did. He was a fine lawyer but he was also a good and kind man.”

Mr Kirby says many countries in the Pacific such as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga have refused the change but Vanuatu has adopted the change and other Pacific countries are considering the change.

“Research has shown such laws and policies are very counteractive to an ineffective strategy to deal with HIV epidemic,” he said.

Mr Kirby said having harsh laws would hinder people who are stigmatised with sexually transmitted diseases to consult a doctor because they would be criminalised.

“They deny hospitals because they might end up in a criminal court or they are denied medical attention because they are HIV affected.”

He further said Fiji had a very low number of HIV cases compared to other Pacific island countries because of the Constitution.

About Michael Kirby

Mr Kirby is the current Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea hosted in New York, last month.

Before he retired, Mr Kirby was a Judge of the High Court of Australia from 1996 to 2009 and served as President of the Courts of Appeal of Solomon Islands as well as New South Wales.

Feedback:  sheik.dean@fijisun.com.fj

 




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