Cook Islands’ Prime Minister Mark Brown called Friday’s decriminalisation the ‘historic day’ the Cook Islands ‘stomp out discrimination of the LGBT community.’

The Cook Islands has removed a law from its Crimes Act that made homosexuality illegal.

Talking to express magazine, Pride Cook Island’s President Karla Eggelton, who has been campaigning for the decriminalisation for five years, told us:


Pride Cook Islands is elated to see the decade-long active push for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Cook Islands finally take place in Parliament on Friday 14 April. This landmark legislation will forever be remembered as our nation’s acknowledgment of the Rainbow Community and their value, importance, and rightful place in society. It speaks to Human Rights and Equality for all.   

“While emotions are celebratory, we are for the most part grateful.  Grateful for the support from many over the years – individuals, NGOs, human rights movements, allies, the Government, and some members of the Opposition.  This has been an exercise in endurance, commitment, and faith.”

Although never enforced, the law made “indecent acts between males” punishable by up to five years in prison.

The bill decriminalising homosexuality passed the island country’s parliament with amendments after the second and third reading on Friday, April 14 Cook Islands time.

Prime Minister Mark Brown took to social media to call the bill’s passage through parliament a “historic day” for the Cook Islands “to stomp out discrimination of the LGBT community.”

The passage of a bill decriminalising homosexuality had been delayed previously.

Lawmakers backtracked on promises to decriminalise homosexuality after a public consultation in 2019. A draft Crimes Bill from 2017 had removed “indecent acts between males” and sodomy as crimes, but instead sexual acts between women were also added as a crime.

UNAIDS welcomed the bill’s passage with the organisation saying they hoped it would inspire other nations in the Pacific to follow suit. 

“Cook Islands’ latest move is part of a wave of global progress around removing laws that harm. It will inspire countries across the Pacific, Asia, and the world to follow suit.

“Decriminalise, save lives,” UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Director, Eamonn Murphy said.

“This decision by the Cook Islands will save lives,” Murphy said.

“The abolition of punitive and discriminatory colonial laws across the world is essential for public health, including for ensuring the end of AIDS.”

Photo | Peter Jennings for express magazine.