The Cook Islands has eliminated a law within its Crimes Act that could imprison men for engaging in sexual activities with other men.
The law, which was never enforced, stipulated that “indecent acts between males” could result in up to five years of imprisonment. Individuals hosting these acts on their property could face up to a decade in prison under the Crimes Act of 1969.
The newly passed Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill will repeal any clauses that criminalise consensual sexual acts between men in the Crimes Act and is set to come into effect on June 1.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown celebrated the historic day on Facebook, stating that his party has kept its promise to eradicate LGBTQ+ discrimination in society and uphold constitutional human rights commitments.
Brown acknowledged the challenges in reaching consensus within his caucus, emphasising that lawmakers should not pass legislation discriminating against community members.
The bill also aims to provide greater protection for victims of sexual crimes.
Justice Minister Hon. Mac Mokoroa asserted that the government cannot dictate individuals’ sexuality, absolve sin, or regulate sexual activity. He declared that the government has no place in the bedrooms of the Cook Islands’ citizens.
The bill’s passage has been warmly welcomed by the Cook Islands’ rainbow community, with Pride Cook Islands President Karla Eggelton who expressed her gratitude to all who contributed to this milestone.