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'Impersonating a woman' decriminalized in Samoa

Third gender fa'afafine in Samoa celebrate the end of legal discrimination
Members of Somoa Fa'afafine Association

Fa'afafine, a third gender culture native to Samoa, are celebrating because a new law decriminalizes 'impersonating a woman'.

The Crimes Act 2012, which came into law yesterday, replaced the Crimes Ordinance 1961 which criminalized 'the impersonation of a female' by any male in Samoa. The law was used to persecute fa'afafine with fines or imprisonment as the penalty.

Although the law stopped being enforced by police in the early 1980s. The Samoa Fa'afaine Association (SFA) said the repeal of the law is 'a huge celebration for the fa'afafine community and vindication for families who have lost members to acts of violence'.

President of SFA Roger Stanley said:

'SFA is calling out to all fa'afafine of Samoa and fa'afafine of Samoan decent living overseas - come, lets celebrate! Today is when our fight to reform these laws has resulted in great success.

'This means that you are now legally allowed to dress and act like a lady if it is your choice, and you will not be fined or imprisoned for your choices, ever!'

Stanley thanked Alex Su'a, Phineas Hartson-Matautia and Ymania Brown for spearheading the submission to the government arguing for a repeal of the law.

'All those that came before us who suffered, and were imprisoned or fined and even died due to their choices, well they did not do so in vain,' concluded Stanley.

Last week Stanley told Radio Australia that SFA are not pushing for gay marriage, despite former colonial rulers New Zealand legalizing it.

'We are happily living in harmony here in Samoa,' said Stanley. 'So we just don't want to stir things up.' 

Samoa, formerly known as Western Somoa, became independent from New Zealand in 1962. In the 2012 census a population of nearly 200,000 was recorded. 

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