Thursday, February 4, 2016

Is Fiji ready for same-sex marriage?

Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister has indeed been very frank on the issue of same-sex marriage, which reflects the opinion and mood of Fiji people on this controversial subject. His comments followed an FBC TV news on calls for gay marriage, and this has ruffled a few feathers. Bainimarama vehemently claimed that gay marriage would not take place in Fiji in his lifetime, and claimed that “Fiji does not need that rubbish”. He further stated that if a woman wanted to marry another woman, "they should go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there." On calls of constitutional equality, Bainimarama said that” the constitution did not refer to equality as the opportunity for same sex marriage or love for all as love by Sakaraia for Ropate ending at the altar.”

Does Constitutional equality in Fiji mean that love of Sakaraia and Ropate will end at altar as MARRIAGE?

Shamima Ali, the head of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, on a news programme is reported to have said that Fiji should consider allowing same-sex marriage. In response to the Prime Minister’s statement, she said it was totally regressive against gay and lesbian community in Fiji who have been struggling with discrimination. She accused PM of being homophobic and said acceptance of the gay community has slowly been increasing, and leaders should instead be encouraging tolerance. Yes, I agree – give recognition, encourage tolerance, give equality in law and promote acceptance. However for it to end in marriage, and in Fiji, is indeed a tall order. High on heels of this, a Fiji lawyer, one Aman Ravindra Singh, jumped in the furore and accused the Prime Minister of breaking the law through his statements. Singh is reported to have said that the comments breach section 65 of the constitution, which contains an offence called inciting communal antagonism.

Let us view this in the context of the so-called Western civilisation and human rights issues. When some of the Western countries which have this legislation were ‘civilised,’ Fiji was still in Stone Age. At the dawn of civilization, Fijians still lived in caves, wore grass skirts and Chiefs relished on meals including meat of fellow human beings from the defeated tribes. Hence any comparison of Fiji to these long “Civilised” western countries with predominantly Anglo Saxon (European) population is misplaced. And Singh and Ali need to be informed that even today, in the country of their forefathers (India), sexual relations between same sexes is still illegal, let alone marriage. This was so in Fiji as well till very recent past where it was referred to as “unnatural” act. 

As a product of that Girmitiya culture, I do not care what gays and lesbians do behind closed doors. I show and support acceptance and tolerance. They have their rights to practice their sexual orientation, and I agree with the law to give them rights to be different, and allow acceptance, in line with global movements and pressures. But to give this relationship equality with marriage is indeed a tall order. This, especially in a very conservative and religious country which is founded on Christianity, and deeply rooted with other religions, including Hinduism and Islam. All these religions see marriage as union of a man and a woman. Fiji saw civilization quite late to beat all other ‘civilised’ countries for same sex marriage. Our religious priests, Pundits and Maulvis will faint at the thought of marrying Adam and Steve, Sakaraia and Ropate, Ram and Shyam and Rafiq and Safiq.

For those who think Fiji should follow its near neighbour in adopting gay marriages need to realise that despite being less than 3 hours flight away, New Zealand is miles away from Fiji in all respects. It is a First World (Developed) Country which saw Western civilisation many miles ahead of Fiji. Unlike Fiji, it has got some forty (40) per cent of people who are atheists-they do not believe in God. Fiji cannot be compared with them. 

Despite its seemingly liberal laws and policies on gender equality, people need to realise that New Zealand, still classed union of same sex as “Civil Union”, and did not call it “marriage” till very recently. Like Fiji, it is a country founded on Christianity, and there are still large sections of its community who resent laws allowing “marriage’ between same sexes.
Perhaps this letter in the Herald on Sunday recently by a reader sums up the sentiment of a large portion of its population, who still believe in God, the biology of reproduction and the law of nature. It sums up my views as well:

“Opposing same sex marriage is not depriving homosexuals of any legal rights, social standing or status. It is merely confirming the traditional and universally accepted definition of marriage, a union between a man and a woman. This is not just biblical authority or Christianity, it is a concept held by all cultures and peoples since the dawn of civilisation for the procreation and preservation of species.”

Thank God for Shamima Ali, lawyer Aman Ravindra Singh, and others advocating same-sex marriage in Fiji - that their fathers did not decide to enter into a gay- marriage. Had they done so, today, instead of advocating for something that is alien to our culture, they would still be hanging loosely somewhere craving to come into human life through the Creator’s rule of union of a man and a woman.