The Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MoJCS) has made it clear that it focuses only on five main Human Rights (HR) conventions, and the rights advocated for by the VPride Foundation are not among them.

These are: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

This was conveyed by Mr. Albert Nalpini, the National HR Coordinator of the Ministry, when commenting on VPride’s “Sexual Orientation Gender Identity & Expression” (SOGIE) booklet, which was initiated by VPride to help promote their awareness in Vanuatu.

VPride Foundation advocates for the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in the country.

The SOGIE booklet sparked negative reactions from parts of the community after the French Ambassador posted on Facebook on 9th of March, stating that the Embassy has financed the French edition of this 42-page booklet designed to raise awareness among the population. When contacted, the Embassy refused to comment on this assistance.

Mr. Nalpini said the five conventions listed are the primary concern of the Ministry in terms of HR, and there are no specific policies or legislation currently in place regarding LGBT rights, including matters of same-sex marriage or recognition beyond the binary classification of male and female.

Regarding the issue raised by the VPride booklet, Nalpini noted the importance of governmental consultation in the development of policies and books that could affect national policy implementation.

He said the Government has yet to take a definitive stance on the issue but it is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.

“Currently, the government hasn’t made this issue a top priority, it focuses mainly on groups whose rights are not fully respected in terms of access to education, healthcare, government services, and workers,” he said.

“When it comes to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, the government hasn’t set specific rules or policies to address them.

“Right now, Vanuatu recognises people as either male or female.

“The government will only start recognising LGBT individuals as a special group, like how it does for children or people with disabilities, once there are specific policies in place.

“For now, without such policies, everyone is seen as either male or female.”

He added that if members of the VPride organisation become victims of discrimination, they can then be considered as a special group.

However, they still access same education opportunities, jobs, and government services. The community hasn’t excluded them; they are part of the community.

“We recognise them as male or female, despite their different behaviours or identities, until the government clarifies its stance,” said Nalpini.

“If the Government says ‘no’, we will create a policy to say ‘no’ to such organisations, and the booklets will be destroyed.

“If the Government says ‘yes’, then anything related to their interests will be discussed and implemented.”

The statement from the National HR Coordinator highlights the ongoing debate within Vanuatu about the recognition and rights of the LGBT community and the government’s cautious approach to addressing these issues amidst community reactions.

The decision wait from the government will be crucial in determining the future direction of policies affecting the LGBT community and their representation in Vanuatu society.