Cook Islands, Oceania
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands in this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi), but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean.
The main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (14,153 as of 2006), where there is an international airport. There is also a much larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Island Māori descent.
With over 90,000 visitors travelling to the islands in 2006, tourism is the country's number one industry, and the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports.
Defence and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to all New Zealand citizens.
Male homosexuality is illegal in the Cook Islands. Consensual male sodomy is punishable by up to seven year's imprisonment, while indecency between males is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. It is unknown whether these laws are currently enforced. Female homosexual acts are legal.
Same-sex marriage was outlawed by the Marriage Amendment Act 2000. The law was clarified in 2007 to state that "no person shall be permitted to marry another person who is of the same gender as him or herself," and to legislatively define the gender of transsexuals. Civil unions are not recognized (even though they are in New Zealand).
News & Reports:
- No gay marriage in the Cook Islands, says prime minister, 2013/Apr/29
- Gay Cook Islands News & Reports, 2011/Jan/19