The Pacific island nation of Palau has decriminalized gay sex in a revision of its penal code.
The new criminal laws came into force at the end of July but were only announced today.
At Palau’s last Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, France, Norway and Spain all made recommendations that the country repeal its anti-gay laws, which were accepted by the government.
This new criminal code was passed by the Palau National Congress and signed into law by President Tommy Remengesau Jr in April.
Gay sex used to be punishable by up to ten years in jail but lesbian sex was legal.
Palau lies east of the Philippines and has a population of around 21,000 spread across 250 islands.
Dr Paula Gerber, president of LGBTI rights group Kaleidoscope Australia, said, ‘This is wonderful news – giving a much need impetus to the process for reform in the Pacific. It is especially pleasing to see that recommendations made during the UN Universal Periodic Review process appear to have had an impact.
‘Kaleidoscope Australia regularly submits shadow reports to UN review processes, calling for an end to the criminalisation of homosexuality. Kaleidoscope Australia will continue to work with LGBTI activists in Asia Pacific nations to follow the example recently set by Palau.’
There are 79 countries globally that still treat gay men as criminals, eight of which are in the Pacific region: the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.
by Darren Wee
Source – Gay Star News