Religious exemptions and discrimination by some religious groups in the region is nothing new for the LGBTQI community.
It has become the norm for many anti-LGBTQI and anti-gender movements like these religious groups and religious leaders to come out and say "we are considering inciting a possible protest" against LGBTQI events or "we condemn their existence".
Caption: A model on the catwalk during the V-Pride Fashion Show 2022. Picture: Groovy Banana Photography.
While this sounds like a broken record, the common trend by many of these anti-LGBTQI religious groups or leaders is to use and weaponise culture, religion, and customary beliefs to give credence and advance their argument while they themselves are breaking their own rule book—the Bible.
The annual V-Pride Fashion Show in Vanuatu last week, which showcased the talents and beauty of the diverse marginalized communities in the country and supported their economic empowerment, was a great success, with about 600 people attending the sold-out event.
However, in the weeks leading up to the event, not only was there so much anticipation but also protests by certain factions of society (mainly church groups) protesting and calling for the event to be called off because of their detached religious beliefs.
There is nothing morally and traditionally wrong with hosting an event that showcases the talent of your people and raises funds to economically empower and support them and their families.
Inclusion was a major theme of the event where women of all sizes and shapes, people with disabilities, including LGBTQI people, were celebrated and recognized as significant contributors to the country's economy and an integral part of the Vanuatu social fabric. Give them their voice and space.
Homosexuality was part of the Melanesian culture and traditions long before the colonizers colonized our land and brainwashed our people. These colonizers erased parts of our history, especially those that did not align with their beliefs and practices.
So what did we do?
We adopted their beliefs and traditions, and disowned ours, and marginalised our own family and community members that did not want to conform to theirs. These religiously inspired disdain, justifications, and hatred of gay people, amplified through the pulpit, should never be tolerated in our society, and must be condemned at all levels.
The comments being made by some religious groups against the fashion show in the media are insensitive at the height of violence, discrimination, hate and abuse being experienced by LGBTQI people in the Pacific.
Despite all the progress we’re making on achieving equality and acceptance of LGBTQI people in society, this rash of bullying, paired with self-loathing by some church groups and religious leaders, contributes to the indescribable self-alienation, isolation, and discrimination of LGBTQI people.
I urge you not to absorb these religious messages – many fuelled by misplaced personal beliefs and pure hate and misogyny – but to continue to support the hard work and effort of the LGBTQI community in your respective countries and continue to promote diversity and inclusion at all levels.
The show will go on.
*Please attribute the statement to PSGDN Chief Executive Officer Isikeli Vulavou.
For more information, contact PSGDN Communications Analyst Nasik Swami at firstname.lastname@example.org