The Associate Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, has accused the United Nations of secretly promoting same sex marriage in Samoa.
While the United Nations strongly reject the claim, Lealailepule is adamant that leaders of the government, churches and villages must stay alert.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, he said the United Nations has a hidden agenda, masked through programmes delivered by U.N. Women to promote equality.
“They are keen on promoting gender equality yet they are also secretly promoting something that Samoa will never be a part of which is same sex marriage,” he said.
Lealailepule wanted to make it clear he welcomes the United Nations help and the work being done by U.N. Women to fight domestic violence, empower women and promote the general good.
“However I am not happy with how the gender equality issue is being used as a secret window to pry open the door for same-sex marriage in Samoa,” he said. “We have to be awake and be alert.”
Contacted for a comment, Deputy Representative U.N. Women Fiji Multi-Country Office, Nicolas Burniat, said they are not secretly promoting same-sex marriage.
“As part of the U.N. family, U.N. Women supports the priorities of governments and civil society across the region,” a statement said.
“In Samoa, over the past few years, U.N. Women has been working in partnership with the government and partners to promote women’s political participation, end violence against women and promote women’s economic empowerment.
“This includes supporting the recent historic National Inquiry into Family Violence led by the government’s Office of the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Institution, and Samoa’s current campaign for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, from 25th November to 10th December.”
She explains the 16 Days campaign is a key time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls (V.A.W.G.) as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.
“Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights deeply entrenched in gender inequality and gender-based discrimination.”
Lealailepule accepts and applauds their work in that regard.
But he wants to warn Samoa to be alert about the “deception being masked under the name of equality.”
“We have to be careful with how these projects are being implemented in the villages,” he said.
“We are all for equal rights for our women, but gender equality is not just about women, it is about men, fa’afafine and lesbians.
“I have nothing personal against my brothers and sisters; however I am not happy with how the gender equality issue is being used as a secret window to pry open the door for same-sex marriage.
“I’m sure some of the Samoan fa’afafine do not wish to break these boundaries because they know what a Christian country represents.
“When it comes to the U.N., they have no culture, no religion, they are just an organization promoting gender rights. But we are a country with a foundation and a proper culture. We strong religious beliefs we must maintain.
“I am somewhat comforted by the recent move by our country to be declared as a Christian State because this type of activity will never be allowed in Samoa.”
He added the U.N. Women puts up this fight for human rights violation and “same sex marriage is wrapped in there somewhere, a hidden agenda and that is something that Samoa should be aware of.”
“Overseas like New Zealand and Australia, they will of course allow that because they are a secular state.
“Not Samoa, we have Christian values that we cannot steer away from.”
The Associate Minister is adamant gender inequality is not an issue in Samoa.
“Look at the facts, the women dominate most of the top level offices in our country. Look at education system, 70 percent are women.
“There are no barriers when it comes to women taking over the top level positions,” he said.
“Even in Parliament, the women are encouraged to put their hat into the general elections.
“In the villages, women are also seen speaking and making decisions in village councils.”
He also mentioned the nofotane project that is supported by U.N. Women and is overseen by the Samoa Victims Support Group (S.V.S.G.).
“I mean even the name nofotane is very demeaning. How can you try and promote women’s rights using the degrading term nofotane, all women whom are married into families never want to be labelled as nofotane,” said Lealailepule.
Ms. Burniat told the Samoa Observer that during the 16 Days campaign, the U.N. Women proudly supported a range of activities including the weekend’s fun run which was led by the Samoa’s Ministry of Women, Community and Social, Development and supported by partners including Samoa’s Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.) and the Australian Government; as well as the Samoa Rugby Sevens Tournament, organised by Samoa Rugby Union with support from Bluesky, Oceania Rugby and U.N. Women.
“The 16 Days ends on 10th December, which is the international Human Rights Day. Discrimination based on sex is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) is specifically dedicated to the realization of women's human rights.
“In its preamble, the Convention explicitly acknowledges that ‘extensive discrimination against women continues to exist’, and emphasizes that such discrimination ‘violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity’.
“As the U.N. organization mandated to advance gender equality U.N. Women firmly stands by these principles.
“We condemn discrimination of all kinds, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ms. Burniat said.
In the past, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, made his position quite clear on same sex marriage and abortion.
“Government will never ever accept legalising abortion for any purposes regardless,” Tuilaepa said. “It is murder and similar to giving our women the license to kill.
“And that is absolutely against our religious Christian values, and beliefs. It’s also totally against our culture and our way of life.
“The same goes for same sex marriage. It will never be accepted by government because it undermines our tradition and our culture.”