Gay men plead for leniency in Fiji sodomy case
August 18 2005 12:00 AM ET
Two gay men
challenging Fiji's sodomy laws on Wednesday made passionate
pleas in the country's high court not to be returned to
jail, reports the Fijilive Web site. Thomas McCoskar,
a 55-year-old retired schoolteacher from Victoria,
Australia, and Dhirendra Nadan, 23, of Tavarua, Nadi, are
appealing their two-year sentences and convictions for
engaging in gay sex and creating pornography for
distribution via the Internet earlier this year.
The decision on
their appeal will be delivered by Justice Gerard Winter
in Lautoka on Friday. Both men made passionate pleas for
freedom. McCoskar said he came to Fiji in March for a
holiday without knowing of Fiji's strict sodomy laws.
"It was not publicized in Australia that homosexual
[activity] is illegal in this country," he said. "If I
knew that, no way will I engage in this practice. I have
been taught to always be cautious. I am supported by
my partner of 25 years, my family is suffering, and I
am suffering. I would like to return to my country of
Nadan, with the
assistance of a Hindi interpreter, requested he not be
sent back to jail because he had been looking after his
family since the death of his elder brother. "I don't
want to go back to prison because I feel bad and
embarrassed," he said. "If I am sent back, I will do
something bad to myself." Both men had their bail extended.
Natasha Khan, earlier questioned the constitutionality of
the sodomy law and its impact on gays in Fiji. "The sodomy
laws will be used by police, for example, for the
purpose of blackmail and extortion," she said. "It is
not properly utilized, so every known homosexual can
be penalized by the court." Khan also denounced public
opinion against legalizing homosexual activity, saying that
such opinion has no place in court. "We have to
protect the minorities," she said.
Sodomy is a
felony that carries a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment. The
case is believed to be a first in Fiji in which the
inconsistency between the constitution and the penal
code on laws relating to homosexuality is brought
before the courts. While the constitution—Fiji's
supreme law—guarantees the rights of sexual
minorities, the penal code forbids sex between men.
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