Religious and cultural elements are the most common challenges that face lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (L.G.B.T.I.) community.
So says the executive director of the Pacific Human Rights Initiative and Global Ambassador of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association, Tuisina Ymania Brown.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, Tuisina said there will be an I.L.G.A. Oceania Regional Conference at Taumeasina Island Resort this week.
The conference officially opened last night but Tuisina said there will be a lot of different issues that will be discussed, mainly the issues that affect L.G.B.T.I. in the region.
Climate justice is important due to the fact that climate change is affecting people’s lives including L.G.B.T.I. citizens.
“We want to talk about parenting L.G.B.T.I. people who are parents and whether the law support L.G.B.T.I. people who are parents or not."
“We want to talk about issues around the elderly L.G.B.T.I. especially if that’s important in the Pacific."
“There are number of different issues that are contextually relevant in the pacific so those are the issues that we will be discussing,” he said.
Tuisina said the two main things that are seeing are the recent introductions in modern day living that are now affecting that.
Tuisina went on to say religion is something that some pastors use it to discriminate the lifestyle of fa’afafines.
“Let’s not dilly dally around the fact that we are a Christian nation but the use by some churches and some pastors of some passages from the Bible to prosecute fa’afafines for their lifestyle that’s something that is relatively new."
“We are not saying that’s wrong no, what we are saying is that if you are going to use the bible to prosecute a group of people that already have no right in the community then be fair with your prosecution."
“Prosecute all other people that are sinners in the bible. For example, the bible specifically talks about no working on Sunday but our Tourism Industry will fail if they shut down on Sunday. So for us it’s like why are you pointing fingers at us by saying Sodom and Comoro and all that and yet there are other people who are also sinners and yet they are not being hold accountable for,” he said.
The second element that Tuisina talked about is the law.
“These two elements are new and what Samoa is good at doing is balancing the three elements together: cultural element, legal element and the religious element."
“They cannot have one overtake the other because the minute we have one overtake the other that’s when we have problems.”
Moreover, Tuisina also spoke about gay Marriage which he said it’s not relevant at the moment in Samoa.
He said it is not an issue but there are discrimination laws, lack of economic empowerment and lack of support for the fa’afafines.
“These are important issues, so how can we talk about marriage equality if our people are starving and our people need access to lands and small loans to do businesses so it’s not an issue for us,” he said.
“And not just that but parenting as well. We all know there are fa’afafines who are co-parents culturally like they help raise their sibling’s children."
“Fa’afafine and fa’afatama are part of our community so let’s work together to try and pave the way to make sure that some of discrimination against the fa’afafine and fa’afatama is moved away so that they can be full participating citizens.”
Tuisina was also asked if having the conference here in Samoa will lead to more acceptances of other genders in other Pacific countries, he said it will not.
“Definitely not. However, it’s going to allow them to see other ways of life."
“It’s going to allow them to see how other genders in other countries fight back against discrimination and then it arms them with those information and knowledge and then they go back in their communities and start mobilizing and networking with other networks,” he said.
And when asked if the conference will also discuss same sex marriage Tuisina said it will not.
“Like we said before same sex marriage is not a priority for us."
“All of the overseas delegates know that; what’s important in Samoa is the va fealoai of the fa’afafine and fa’afafatama towards their villages, churches and families that’s important for us and that balance can never be upset an external force."
“[And] if there are any changes it has to come from within the Samoa Fa’afafine Association and we need to drive that change."