Fiji student support group marks Day Against Homo/Transphobia
A support group for gay students is hoping to raise awareness of the plight of homosexual and transgender communities in Fiji.
A support group for gay students in Fiji is undertaking a week of events to mark Friday's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The Drodrolagi Movement, which is a support network of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, says it wants encourage the community to educate themselves about sexual orientation and gender identity issues in Fiji.
The movement's spokesperson, Kris Prasad, told Jamie Tahana he hopes to encourage people to stand up against homophobia and end discrimination in Fiji.
PRASAD: It is quite an issue here in Fiji, in regards to the stigma of violence and discrimination that our local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community face in Fiji, but often their issues might not be highlighted and their issues are not covered. So, yes, there is a lot of discrimination.
TAHANA: Why are their issues not highlighted or covered?
PRASAD: Well, it is still a taboo topic here in Fiji due to media censorship and self-censorship, as well. Sometimes media organisations, due to reasons of their own, might not want to cover these issues. And because Fiji is largely a very conservative country, it's really hard to find a space where people can talk openly about issues.
TAHANA: Recently we've seen Frank Bainimarama himself say same-sex marriage will not be allowed in Fiji. Is such a stigma like this common? Do you view it as a stigma?
PRASAD: Yeah, we do find that when people make statements like that in the media. They do increase debate, whether it's in the local media or people writing a letter to the editor or even in social media, people agreeing with these statements made by the state. That actually promotes more stigma, which encourages discrimination.
TAHANA: What changes would you like to see made?
PRASAD: I'd like to see people actually standing up against homophobia and transpobia, because, at the end of the day, people are facing discrimination. And it is important we recognise people are allowed to have their opinion or whatever belief they have. That should not be a reason to deny anyone the same equal dignity and respect they deserve.
TAHANA: And you're hoping to raise awareness about this through your events. What interest have you had in these events?
PRASAD: It's a bit hard to get coverage in the media, but I think we have been very creative. We're using word of mouth and we've put up a few flyers here and there. And we're also very active on social media, as well, and there's been a lot of interest. I hope a lot of people will be coming to our events and learning more about the issues that we're trying to advocate for.
TAHANA: This is the third year you've been running such events. Has the interest and awareness been growing?
PRASAD: Yeah. When we first started off on 17 May 2011, that was the first time we did it. So every year, more and more people are interested in our group and they're interested in making the event bigger and better. This year the interest was huge so we decided to have a whole week of events. And as we've noticed over the past couple of years it sort of does generate a lot of discussion. When we debate these issues we also find that there are a lot of people who are our allies, as well, and they become involved in the movement, as well. So it's a great way to get people together and find out that we actually have a lot of support.
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