Director for Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj has clarified that International human rights law does not necessarily recognize same-sex marriage as a right.
Raj has made this statement after an outrage on social media regarding the comment made by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama that Fiji will not allow same-sex marriage.
While elaborating on the issue of same-sex marriage Raj says the jurisprudence emerging out of the European Court of Human Rights instructs us that same-sex marriages are not necessary to deliver equality on the grounds of sex and gender as long as the marital status does not carry with it legal rights which are not available to unmarried couples.
He says for Fiji, there needs to be more clarity on what the constitution states on the issue of same-sex marriage.
The inclusion of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity under section 26(3) of the Fiji Constitution is an important legal safeguard even if Fiji decides not to legalize same-sex marriage. Furthermore, there is no clarity on whether the term “expression” under 26(3) includes marriage and therefore there is a need to develop jurisprudence in this area.
Raj says that the priority must be towards addressing everyday structural violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTI community whether it be an interdiction of their rights as arrested and detained persons, hate speeches and cyberbullying, ability to secure gainful employment, discrimination in the health sector, workplace or in schools, intolerance and unacceptance by family and communities often leading to depression, sufferance and ultimately suicides.
Fiji needs to have calm and rational debate on this sensitive subject and we must not mislead and politicize what international human rights law says on the issue and indeed the Bill of Rights provisions of our Constitution and ancillary legislations.