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Fiji Methodists Warned They Risk Arrest Over Anti-Gay Protest


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Fiji Methodists Warned They Risk Arrest Over Anti-Gay Protest

by Peter Hacker 365Gay.com Asia Bureau Chief

Posted: November 10, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Suva) The Fiji government has warned the country's biggest denomination that its members risk arrest if they stage a protest march against homosexuality.

The Methodist Church had sought a permit for the march later this month to the Fijian Parliament. Police refused saying the demonstration encourage discrimination and hatred against the gay community.

The island nation's police say that if the march is held without a permit demonstrators would be arrested.

Earlier this month the director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, warned the church that if it went ahead with the protest the commission would prosecute church leaders with inciting hatred.

Angry church leaders fired back warning the government that a catastrophe will hit the island if it is continuously denied a permit to protest homosexuality.

The church’s general secretary, the Reverend Ame Tugawe said the island should be prepared for a tsunami such as the one that hit Asia on New Year's Day or a hurricane like Katrina in the US.

The Methodist Church staged an earlier protest march after two men were acquitted of sodomy charges when the Supreme Court ruled the sodomy law was unconstitutional.

Shameem had said that while the first march could count as freedom of expression, a second or third march would be seen as encouraging discrimination and therefore qualify as "hate speech."

The Methodist Church has been lobbying to have the constitution amended to remove protections for gays.

Meanwhile, government prosecutors have asked the high court to review the sodomy ruling. (story)

Thomas McCoskar, a 55-year-old Australian, and Dhirendra Nadan, a 23-year-old native man, were convicted earlier this year and sentenced to two years in prison.

In passing sentence the trial judge described gay sex as "something so disgusting that it would make any decent person vomit.''

The pair appealed to the High Court. Justice Gerald Winter ruled that the sodomy law - a holdover from British colonial rule - was inconsistent with the Fijian constitution and therefore invalid. (story)

“What the Constitution requires is that the law acknowledges difference, affirms dignity and allows equal respect to every citizen as they are,” his ruling said.

The government said that if the court revisits the case it would seek to have McCoskar extradited to stand trial.

©365Gay.com 2005


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