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Be careful of what you say; PSGDN urges Fijian politicians



The following comments have been made by the Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Sexual & Gender Diversity Network, Isikeli Vulavou:

  • Extremist politicians like Pastor Tuiloma Tawaivuna of All Peoples Party, Mesake Tukai of Unity Fiji and their allies who are peddling inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric against the LGBTQI+ community must be taken to task by the relevant authorities;

  • As social media platforms fail to enforce their own standards — enabling a wave of online anti-trans, anti-LGBTQI+ hate to grow without restraint — these political extremists are wielding dangerous influence, seeking to radicalize Fijians, incite hate against LGBTQI+ people, and mobilize the extremists within their base ahead of the elections;

  • But the rise of this online vitriol doesn’t just have political implications — there are deadly, real world consequences as violent rhetoric leads to stigma, radicalization, and ultimately violence;

  • For a while now, some politicians have made the LGBTQI community in Fiji a target of their hate speech and political nonsense;

  • We have noted that the intensity of these attacks has increased significantly since August 2022, and as we get closer to election day;

  • The display of homophobia and transphobia from some political parties, leaders, and candidates who want as many votes in order to represent us in Parliament is appalling, to say the least;

  • The hateful, dehumanizing, demonizing, full of lies, and nonsensical rhetoric of divide and rule remarks made by some politicians, who are supposedly the custodians of democracy, good governance, and human rights, and directed at the LGBTQI community in general, has absolutely no place in the political arena and must be called out at all levels;

  • With political campaigns in full swing, this is the time when many politicians, including those we haven't heard from in the last four years, will spring to life, employing a variety of strategies to win your vote;

  • Many opportunists would accomplish this by spreading lies and hatred and weaponising biblical verses to support arguments against same-sex marriage, gender identities, and the existence of LGBTQI people in our society;

  • Many politicians, who are also the so-called religious leaders in their communities, would use the Bible as a weapon against LGBTQI+ people and adopt a "pick and mix" approach to scripture, selecting what appeals to suit their prejudices and agendas while ignoring other texts;

  • These Bible bashing, erroneous use of God's word, and hateful remarks directed at the LGBTQI+ community by political parties, leaders, or candidates should never be tolerated, be condemned at all levels and must end immediately;

  • Such actions can translate into real hate and violence for the already marginalized and vulnerable community in the streets;

  • I urge Fijians not to believe the lies some political party leaders and candidates spread about the LGBTQI+ community in Fiji. Their interpretation is far from the truth and often filled with malice, hatred, homophobia, poor upbringing, and a lack of knowledge about the day-to-day realities of LGBTQI people;

  • I call upon politicians to refrain from using or targeting someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation when campaigning;

  • If you want to debate, talk about your policies, talk about the day-to-day challenges Fijians face in putting food on the table, talk about the cost of living, access to quality healthcare, medicines and education, and how you plan to better our lives and how you intend to look after us collectively—but not the bodies of the LGBTQI community as a political football to further marginalize and exclude them for your political gain;

  • I call upon the LGBTQI+ community in Fiji to be on alert and report these harmful politicians who make hateful utterances to the relevant authorities. Utilize these legal redress mechanisms and let the law deal with them;

  • Politicians have an influential role, a position of power, and a platform to promote measures that help societies protect the most vulnerable, spread love, acceptance, and peace, and help create a just society where everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender, and sex live free from prejudice;

  • We need our political leaders to be inclusive, talk to the LGBTQI communities before drafting policies, invite LGBTQI individuals to make valuable contributions to the party and the country, and most importantly, to come and talk to us and other LGBTQI organizations if they need information or clarification, instead of saying the wrong things and misleading the public;

  • The LGBTQI community needs safety and social security nets to be able to participate fully in political and civic spaces and to be effective contributing members of their community;

  • This is an important area political parties and leaders now need to focus on—they need us;

  • I would also want to make a call to the media organizations covering the elections to not sensationalize LGBTQI+ issues without consulting the community first. You need to understand the repercussions this can have on the already marginalized community and the violence, hate, and discrimination it can trigger;

  • We need to free our LGBTQI+ people from violence, discrimination, hate crime, and their daily struggle to live a just, fair, and dignified life.

For more information, contact PSGDN Communications Lead Nasik Swami at nasik.swami@psgdn.org

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