PRESS RELEASE: October 19, 2007
Largest gathering of Pacific Island sexual minority communities takes place this weekend
The largest gathering of Pacific Island sexual minority communities in the Pacific region is taking place this Labour Weekend in Auckland.
The LOVE LIFE 2 fono is organised and hosted by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s Pacific Peoples Project, and is aimed at promoting a safe sex culture within “third sex” sexual minority communities of the South Pacific, who are at high risk of contracting HIV. The “third sex” is a term sometimes used among Pasifika people to describe those who do not identify or live according to their birth gender.
Delegates from around the Pacific will be gathering at Makaurau Marae in Mangere to share their concerns about HIV/AIDS, social justice, and other health and wellbeing issues.
“Our communities were an accepted part of Pacific life and culture prior to Western colonisation, but have been subject to much stigma and discrimination in more recent times,” says fono co-ordinator Phylesha Brown-Acton. “Events like Love Life give our communities a voice and strength that at other times is easily marginalised.”
Sexual minority “third sex” Pacific communities go under a variety of different names: Fa’afafine (Samoa), Mahu (Hawaii), Fakaleiti (Tonga), Whakawahine (Aotearoa), ‘Akava’ine (Cook Is), Vaka sa lewa lewa (Fiji), Rae rae (Tahiti) and Fiafifine (Niue).
Presentations will cover how to build community groups, support networks, challenge discrimination and advocate for human rights. There will also be initiatives to enhance self esteem and plenty of time for socialising, with a netball tournament and dance night.
Acton-Brown, who is herself Fiafifine (Niue), Fa’afafine (Samoa) and Akava’ine (Cook Is), says she hopes the fono will build solidarity amongst third sex communities in the region. “We hope that by the time the fono concludes, those who’ve attended will have the skills to develop programmes that they can lead in eliminating the social and cultural barriers to the health and wellbeing of third sex communities.”
“Because of the climate of stigma and discrimination which still exists, it’s also vitally important that we continue to educate mainstream populations in the Pacific on the importance of creating supportive environments for sexual minorities in the context of HIV and AIDS,” Brown-Acton concludes.