Nanaia Mahuta, Solomon Islands' minister hold talks in 'Rainbow Room', despite island nation's anti-same sex policies

Nanaia Mahuta and the Solomon Islands' Foreign Affairs Minister have held talks in the New Zealand Parliament's 'Rainbow Room', though same-sex sexual activity is outlawed in the Solomons.

Mahuta, the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, told media there was "no subliminal messaging" intended by the choice of where to hold the talks.

"It was just the only room available," she said while awaiting the arrival of the Solomon Islands' Foreign Affairs Minister, Jeremiah Manele.

Later, at a press conference, Manele was asked if the Solomon Islands' law was backwards.

"Solomon Islands is a young democracy and these are emerging issues we will continue to face and we will continue to see how best we can address [them] within the context of not only our culture but also our constitution which sets out rights and freedoms," he said. 

Mahuta said the New Zealand side "wanted to make sure we could use other venues that are a little more diverse in terms of hosting a meeting".

"There was no specific undertone or messaging in that."

The Solomon Islands' Penal Code outlaws same-sex relations. It says "buggery" has a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, while indecent practices between people of the same sex has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

However, a US Department of State report released in 2021 said the laws no longer appear to be enforced. 

"There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws."

The Human Dignity Trust said there is no evidence the law has been enforced since 2003, but "the mere existence of the law is itself a violation of human rights and underpins further acts of discrimination".

"There have been few reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in the Solomon Islands in recent years. The limited reports that are available suggest that LGBT people can be subjected to verbal abuse, sexual assault, threats, and exclusion from services."

In 2018, the Solomon Islands' Governor-General Sir Frank Kubai opposed teaching about gay or lesbian rights in schools

"Our challenge is to continue to remain steadfast against this onslaught, the international gay and lesbian advocates are steadfastly chipping at the edges with the hope that they change the world and accept same-sex marriage."

He also said "being gay or homosexual is not the issue" and "people of this description are everywhere in our societies". 

"It is not wrong to be born with gay or lesbian inclination, it is said to be biological and is beyond individual control. Be that as it may, there is however a choice either practising it or not with another person of same sex is a matter of choice, practising it in private or openly when universal acceptance is therefore the issue today."

The Rainbow Room in Parliament was opened in 2008. The Select Committee room is dedicated to New Zealand's gay, lesbian and transgender community.

"This is where we, as members of Parliament, are at our most influential and intensive, and so it is appropriate that it is with our select committee rooms that we celebrate our diverse Parliament and the democratic system which has finally delivered representation," said then-Speaker Margaret Wilson.