11 Dec 2015

Cook Islands LGBTI advocate receives Queen’s award

3:54 pm on 11 December 2015

A young Cook Islands leader, Valentino Wichman, has been awarded a 2016 Queen's Young Leaders Award for service to gay rights activism in the Cook Islands.

The award recognises and celebrates people aged 18 to 29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.

Valentino Wichman is known for supporting LGBTI rights in the Cook Islands as the secretary of Te Tiare Association, and aims to help decriminalise sex between same-sex couples, which is still a crime in the Cook Islands.

He says after helping draft the Cook Islands Youth Policy, he wants to spend the year as a Queen's Young Leader working with policy makers to bring LGBTI legislation into line with that of New Zealand and to develop support services for the LGBTI community in the Cook Islands.

The 27-year-old stand says standing up for LGBTI rights in a strongly religious country has been difficult, and says he was shocked and humbled by the award.

Winners of the Queen's Young Leaders Award come from across the world, and will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking including a one-week residential programme in England where they will collect their award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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Photo: 123RF