Tuesday, 6 September 2011

In Fiji, trans progress, legal progress

ICAAP 2011 - APCOM Satellite. I am what I am: Transgender health and challenges

Source: Fiji Times

Fiji became the first Pacific island nation to formally decriminalise consensual homosexuality last year, the world's second largest gathering on HIV/AIDS was told.

Despite this significant step forward, there was a distinct lack of information about men who had sex with men (MSM) and transgender people in Fiji, a report tabled at the congress on AIDS said.

The report from Amithi Fiji - a project that focuses on Fijian of Indian descent transgender and MSM - said attempts were made by the Government to include in HIV surveillance studies of MSM and transgender (TG) issues.

According to the report, very little was published in the academic literature about MSM and TG in Fiji.

The 100-page document said a review of published materials about MSM and TG in Asia and the Pacific in 2009 to 2010 revealed no academic articles specifically about HIV and MSM/TG in Fiji.
"It appears that the only study relating to HIV and risk behaviour among MSM and TG in Fiji was conducted by the AIDS Task Force of Fiji in 1998, with the results being released in 2001," the report said.
AIDS Task Force of Fiji, a community-based HIV organisation established in 1993, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University were also responsible for the findings contained in the report.


The Yellow Tail Adi Senikau Pageant this year was a night of glamour and satire, with each contestants or Divas - the name used to refer to the contestants, bringing to the stage entertainment for the packed Hibiscus Festival main tents on the Friday night of the 2011 Vodafone Hibiscus week.

The night ended with Sheena crowned this year's Yellow Tail Adi Senikau queen.

The contestants represented their favourite divas in the likes of Whitney Houston, Boney M's Marcia Barrett, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and even supermodel, Naomi Campbell. The contestants were judged on their customised sashes and talents.

Opening the night show was 2008 Miss Adi Senikau winner, Ashley, with a solo performance on the message "transgender is a fruitful contributor to the community. If we're all equal in heaven, why not on earth." The Adi Senikau was first spearheaded by Joe Gray in 1999 with the main aim to rejuvenate the attendance for the Hibiscus Festival.
"It was organised to complement the Hibiscus Festival with the main objective to assist gay sex workers financially and give them a better opportunity," Joe said.
He even indicated that in the past, Adi Senikau contestants went through intensive screening and were disciplined.
"When it came to Friday, it was a hit.

"It was taken into account that we represented the minority and contestants were trained for at least four months before the Hibiscus Festival actually started," he said.
He even expressed reservations that the Adi Senikau pageant was being organised "for people to just go and have a good laugh".
"They have made a mockery of it, we're still the minority in society and we should consider our culture and traditions, and there are certain lines we don't cross.

"We have to also consider that when organising the Adi Senikau, we're not sending the wrong message which can lead to further exploitations. I would like to organise an Adi Senikau Pageant in Nadi and bring back its earlier prestige," the Adi Senikau founder said. However, this year, Suli Waqa with the help of a number of volunteers organised the event despite all criticism.

"The aim was to create a platform for the transgender community to advocate on issues affecting them," Suli said.
He said the Adi Senikau was also about bringing out their creativity into the drag show business. And a drag show it was - contestants exaggerating make-up, eyelashes and even dance moves, creating a dramatic and satirical effect which made the entire evening fun and enjoyable.
"The event gave the contestants the opportunity to create their outfits in terms of wearable arts, these were major categories the contestants were judged on, and to us having the Adi Senikau coincide with the Hibiscus Festival was very important because we need to keep this platform alive.

"It's also about recognising transgender in the community, to celebrate and bring out their creativity.

"It is very important to work with other stakeholders such as the Hibiscus Event Group because they have been instrumental in keeping the Adi Senikau alive.
"For some occasions, we haven't been able to secure funding but the Hibiscus Event Group made that possible," he said.
Last year, the pageant received a huge boost from UNAIDS. UNAIDS' provided financial support primarily for the purpose of advocacy on HIV/AIDS among the transgender community.
"This enabled the contestants to conduct consultations in various communities in the country, in the West, North and Central Division," according to Suli.

"Money raised from the Adi Senikau went towards the community outreach. Having UNAIDS on board also gave transgender more understanding about their sexual and reproductive health, where do they go to when they want condoms, sexual reproductive counselling, and whether there are places they can go to for advice. These were some of the issues that were addressed during the pageant ù so you see; it was more than just a pageant or a drag show. However, despite different opinions from the gay community, Suli said Adi Senikau had a lot to offer not only in terms of entertainment but promoting issues concerning transgender.

"The support from the gay community varies, some support the initiative and some don't, and the reason most don't is because of the idea that people only come to the Adi Senikau for a laugh but this is the reality of drag pageants all over the world," he said.

"In order to maintain balance, we had to have a messages attached to the pageant and this year, the contestants did quite well addressing children's issue on stage in relation to the theme Our Children, Our Future: Love and Protect Them. "We cannot make a boring pageant, it has to be humorous and entertaining - people will want to come and have a laugh, we have to accept that, that is the drag pageant and having a message attached to it is a plus," the Yellow Tail Adi Senikau co-ordinator said.


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