Seychelles and Palau agree to decriminalize Gay sex
 

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posted Friday, October 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 40

Seychelles and Palau agree to decriminalize Gay sex
By Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two small island nations - Seychelles, near Madagascar, and Palau, in the South Pacific - have told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that they will decriminalize same-sex relations.

Seychelles said it will also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The commitments were made as part of the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review Process, a review of the human rights records of all 192 U.N. members conducted every four years.

The process gives interested non-governmental organizations (NGOs) an opportunity to question the policies of U.N. member states.

The Seychelles representative noted that although the country's penal code currently forbids what it calls sodomy, 'this provision has never been applied against anyone.'

When challenged to specify a timeframe for changing the penal code, Seychelles' Second Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Sandra Michel, answered that 'the change of relevant laws will come pretty soon, as the government and civil society want so.'

The Seychelles sodomy law is a relic of the British Empire. The country became independent in 1976.

Palau was a colony successively of Spain (until 1899), Germany (1899-1914), Japan (1914-1944), and the United States (from 1944 until independence in 1978).

The Solomon Islands said they would consider budgeting for a national consultation on decriminalizing same-sex relations. Papua New Guinea claimed it is already consulting.

Other countries told the U.N. that they would not be decriminalizing.

Sierra Leone claimed it had no need to do so, as there is 'no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation' in that country.

Singapore said its 'conservative society' would not permit decriminalization.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines said that sodomy laws 'all enjoy wide popular support in the State and there is no legislative appetite to repeal any of these provisions.'

Also rejecting decriminalization was Suriname, which stated, 'Debate with religious authorities and other groups regarding the extension of special rights to LGBT individuals is necessary.'

Samoa also cited Christianity and 'cultural sensitivities' but claimed that its courts would throw out discriminatory cases.

No NGOs bothered asking the Somali or Sudanese governments about LGBT issues.

LGBT activists hope to get the issue of decriminalization onto the agenda of the upcoming British Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit scheduled for Oct. 28-30.



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