Cook Islands

Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The following country profiles are derived in part from sections of the Human Rights Watch 2019 World Report that relate to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Cook Islands: Drag pageant returns

The Cook Islands have revived its popular transgender pageant the Mizz Jewel competition after a 10 year break as part of a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality.

Organiser Valentino Wichman, who has been awarded a 2016 Commonwealth Queens Young Leaders Award for service to gay rights activism in the Cook Islands, says it's about celebrating diversity and embracing differences.

"I would say socially we are generally accepted but there is still that legal aspect hanging over our heads," he says.

"For us it's about trying to educate them (the public) that we are part of society and we come from normal families."

Hundreds of people packed the national auditorium for the show which featured a dazzling array of talent, evening wear and a creative section. 

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Cook Islands Queen: criminalising gays 'unfair'

The' queen of the Cook Islands,' Takitumu paramount chief Marie Pa Ariki says it is unfair and unjust for gay people to be treated as criminals due to who they love and how they express that love.

The Cook Islands is one of several Pacific nations which still criminalise same-sex relations between men and offer no human rights protections to those who are widely ostracised for not being born heterosexual. Pa Ariki stated: "[Gay] people are knowledgeable and contribute to society and to home life," she says. "They are human like everyone else... we are all whanau." Read More