POLITICS

Nauru Decriminalises Suicide, Homosexuality

The government says the laws are intended to be consistent with international standards.

27/05/2016 10:54 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Reuters
Nauru President Baron Waqua, pictured here addressing the UN in 2013.

Homosexuality and suicide are no longer criminal offences on Nauru, the government of the tiny Pacific nation says.

The government issued a statement on Friday announcing it had updated its criminal code and that it drafted the laws to be consistent with "appropriate international standards".

Nauru houses a controversial Australian-funded asylum seeker processing centre. In April an Iranian refugee was convicted of attempted suicide after an incident at a refugee resettlement area.

Penalties such as the death penalty, imprisonment with hard labour, and solitary confinement have been removed, while the penalties for sexual offences, particularly relating to children, have been increased, the government said.

"(The updated criminal code) is drafted in a gender neutral way to ensure equality before the law and promote gender equality in the community," the government statement said.

Homosexuality has also been removed as an offence, the government said.

Prior to the new laws, Nauru's criminal code outlawed suicide and stated that "any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for one year".

Suicide is no longer an offence and is considered more a mental health issue rather than a criminal law issue.

The wide-ranging changes affect a number of different areas of Nauru society, including criminal defamation and unlawful vilification.

In the updated criminal code, abortion remains an offence where not carried out as part of a 'lawful medical procedure', while slavery and torture have been criminalised in circumstances of forced labour, debt-bondage, or serfdom.

"It also covers parents or guardians who permit a child to be placed under the control of another person, so that the child may be exploited and forcing a child to marry another person in exchange for a material benefit," the government statement read.

Rape has been given a broader definition, and is now applicable to married and de facto couples, the statement read.

Nauru has also bolstered its unlawful assembly and rioting laws, creating the offences of unlawful assembly, rioting and riotous damage.

Under the laws penalties increase with the level of seriousness of the offence -- unlawful assembly being the least serious whilst rioting being the most serious of the offences.

Earlier this week the government introduced a new Leadership Code it said was aimed at holding those in power and authority accountable for their actions.

"Police officers, church leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and youth leaders all come under this umbrella and will now have to act in such a way befitting their standing or risk the consequences," MP Russ Kun said at the time.

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