An Australian man
and a Fijian man won appeals Friday against two-year
jail sentences for breaking Fiji's conservative laws
prohibiting gay sex, Agence France-Presse reports.
Thomas McCosker, 55, from the Australian state of
Victoria, and Dhirendra Nadan, 23, of Nadi, appealed against
sentences handed down after they were arrested in April.
Fiji high court
judge Gerald Winter said laws prohibiting private sexual
acts between consenting males were invalid because they
contradicted the constitution, Internet news service
Fijilive reported. "What the constitution requires is
that the law acknowledges difference, affirms dignity,
and allows equal respect to every citizen as they are,"
Winter said in his judgment, delivered in the town of
Lautoka. He said gay sex was illegal only when it
occurred in public, without consent, or involved
people under age 18. "The state that embraces difference,
dignity, and equality does not encourage citizens without a
sense of good or evil but rather creates a strong
society built on tolerant relationships with a healthy
regard for the rule of law."
overturning laws against gay sex in private is sure to cause
controversy in Fiji, where most of the indigenous population
are conservative Christians. Fijian senator Mitieli
Bulanauca this week called for harsh penalties for
homosexual acts, and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
has defended the sodomy laws.