UNAIDS has welcomed the decriminalisation of same-sex relations by the Cook Islands parliament.
On Saturday, Cook Islands lawmakers removed laws prohibiting consensual sexual acts between men from the nation’s Crimes Act.
By decriminalising sex between same-sex partners, the Pacific nation joins a global movement toward affirming the human rights to non-discrimination and privacy, said UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Director, Eamonn Murphy.
“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,” he said.
In a statement, UNAIDS said “criminalisation of same-sex relations undermines the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Punitive laws reinforce stigma and discrimination against LGBT people, undermining their access to the rights, remedies and opportunities available to other people”. Such laws also obstruct access to vital services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, the organisation stated.
“This decision by Cook Islands will save lives,” said Mr Murphy. “The abolition of punitive and discriminatory colonial laws across the world is essential for public health, including for ensuring the end of AIDS.”
Bi-partisan support for the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill demonstrates that policy-makers, civil society and communities can dialogue to develop laws that create more just and equitable societies, he said.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) unites the efforts of 11 UN organisations – UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank – and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.