Politicians hold protest outside parliament while LGBTQI community still at risk in Samoa
Samoa’s civic space rating is rated ‘open’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. In September 2021, opposition party members held a protest outside parliament while in November 2021, the government failed to support recommendations by the Human Rights Council to protect the LGBTQI community
Protest by HRPP party outside parliament
On 15th September 2021, 18 unsworn MPs of the opposition Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) held a protest at their inability to enter Parliament. They also requested the Speaker come out to address them in the FaaSamoa tradition. Leading the protest outside Parliament was the party's leader and the former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi,
The Speaker of the House, Papali'i Lio Masipau had blocked their access as the party had previously sought to be sworn into Parliament by the Head of State, not the Speaker himself, in contravention of Parliament's standing orders. He also noted the party's numerous broadcasts showed their continual opposition and non-acceptance of the current government led by the Faʻatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi or the FAST party.
Police had erected a barricade to prevent people from approaching the building and were under orders to remove protesters. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Leiataualesa Samuel Afamasaga, told the HRPP members they had to leave the premises or face being forcibly removed. Yhe HRPP members eventually left peacefully
On 16th September, Samoa’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of an appeal by the opposition HRPP and ordered the Speaker of the House to swear in the party’s members. The following day, the HRPP members were sworn in,
As previously documented, the country was in a political deadlock since April 2021, when long-ruling Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi narrowly lost in elections to FAST and refused to cede power. FAST’s victory was a major shift in Samoan politics which was ruled as a virtual one-party state since formal independence in 1962
In July 2021, the Appeal Court in Samoa ended a 15-week constitutional crisis, confirming Fiame Naomi Mata'afa from FAST as the nation's first woman prime minister.
However, on 30th July 2021, HRPP supporters participated in a vehicle convoy protest against the judiciary. Samoa's courthouses closed in anticipation of the convoy protest. HRPP leader Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi urged people to join him in demanding the resignation of the Chief Justice and other judges.
On 2nd August 2021, around a thousand supporters of the HRPP marched through the capital Apia. Party leader, and now former prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the crowd the judiciary had violated the constitution when the Court of Appeal recognised FAST Party MPs as the legitimate government.
Government fails to support recommendations to protect LGBTQI community
On 2nd November 2021, Samoa’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
During the review, the government received at least 14 recommendations to decriminalise consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex and expand its anti-discrimination legislation, to include a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The recommendations were not supported but only noted by Samoa.
According to Amnesty International. Samoa has a large community known as Fa’afafine and Fa’afatama that are culturally unique to Samoa and would be described as transgender in Western societies. In spite of this cultural recognition, they still face discrimination and harassment in the community. While being transgender is tolerated in Samoan culture, consensual adult same sex sexual conduct is condemned and criminalised.
The Crimes Act makes it an offence to commit sodomy, punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. Consent is not considered a defence under the Act. The Crimes Act further criminalises attempts to commit sodomy and keeping place of resort for homosexual acts (which includes ‘indecent acts between males’), both punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment.
The Samoan Prime Minister has cited Christian beliefs in his refusal to amend discriminatory laws that deny the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the right to bodily autonomy and the right to family for LGBTQI people. There is a s clear link between criminalisation and levels of violence, discrimination and stigma against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a submission by the Samoa Fa'afafine Association Inc (SFA) they noted how the Fa’afafine and Fa’afatama citizens of Samoa who are the most visible individuals from LGBTQI community face social ostracisation and stigmatisation. Police harassment was also reported including in detention.