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Fiji judge
strikes down sodomy conviction as unconstitutional

Fiji judge
strikes down sodomy conviction as unconstitutional

Mccosker

The sodomy convictions of Australian Thomas McCosker (pictured) and Fijian Dhirendra Nadan were overturned by a Fijian judge who ruled that the convictions were unconstitutional.

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."

The ruling 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.

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