Fa'afafine Association responds to Pope Francis

The President of the Samoa Fa'afafine Association, Alex Su'a, says Pope Francis’ endorsement of same sex unions is not something they wanted and has called for the focus to shift to pressing issues such as domestic violence, sex-related diseases and health services.

Mr. Su’a told the Samoa Observer in an interview that the recent endorsement of same sex marriages by the Catholic Church’s global head has had no effect on the local fa’afafine population, since the conversation on same sex marriage was never on the agenda in Samoa.

“With Samoa Fa'afafine Association’s position, marriage was never an issue," he said. "We never cried out in our advocacy that we want same sex marriage.

“We always believe that marriage is a white man’s issue but not an issue for us here in Samoa and we always believe that we have to work within the perimeters of our culture.

“That’s never a call for us. That's what the white people are striving to achieve themselves because they have the funds and abilities... They have health services and financial services available for people and the education sector is advancing overseas.”

Mr. Su’a explained that marriage continues to be championed by same sex couples abroad and the priorities for fa’afafine in Samoa were different, as they wanted the local authorities to tackle issues affecting them such as sexually transimitted infections (S.T.Is) and high rates of sexual and verbal abuse.

“So marriage is one of the things to complete the circle because they want everything while in Samoa, our main concern is on the real issues such as sexual transmitted diseases, our system also cannot cater for services relating to the transgenders,” he said.

“There’s high domestic violence in families on fa'afafine and fa’afafine, sexual, verbal abuses which are very high in families.

“Gender-based violence and those issues should be everyone’s first concerns instead of same sex marriage which is what S.F.A is pushing for.”

Mr. Su’a added that the call by Pope Francis also shows how progressive the Catholic Church has become on this particular matter.

“But with what the Pope was saying, I think it’s very progressive for the church [Catholic] because it’s always been reserved.”

Marriage between two people of the same gender can also happen in Samoa, added Mr. Su’a but it’s a different concept when it comes to Samoan transgender due to cultural and Christianity boundaries.

“With our association, it’s not a big deal because celebrating love and relationship with partners is not something that we’ve always been fascinated by because the majority of the transgenders’ relationships do not last,” he said.

“We don’t argue about this topic because of our culture and our organisation works with our culture. We can never stand on the other side and say our culture discriminates against us because we are part of the culture and that was our approach from the beginning.”

The S.F.A. has between 30-50 active members, though Mr. Su’a estimates the fa’afafine population in Samoa to be between 1000-2000.

Speaking in a documentary recently on his papacy, the Pope said homosexuals have the right to be in a family.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” the Argentinian pontiff said.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

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