Press release

UNAIDS welcomes the decriminalisation of same-sex relations by the Cook Islands parliament

BANGKOK, 15 April 2023—UNAIDS applauds today’s decision by Cook Islands lawmakers to remove laws prohibiting consensual sexual acts between men from the Crimes Act. By decriminalising sex between same-sex partners, the Pacific nation joins a global movement toward affirming the human rights to non-discrimination and privacy.

“Cook Islands’ latest move is part of a wave of global progress around removing laws that harm. It will inspire countries across the Pacific, Asia and the world to follow suit. Decriminalise, save lives," said UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Director, Eamonn Murphy.

Criminalisation of same-sex relations undermines the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Punitive laws reinforce stigma and discrimination against LGBT people, undermining their access to the rights, remedies and opportunities available to other people. Such laws also obstruct access to vital services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare.

"This decision by Cook Islands will save lives,” said Mr Murphy. “The abolition of punitive and discriminatory colonial laws across the world is essential for public health, including for ensuring the end of AIDS.”

Bi-partisan support for the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill demonstrates that policy-makers, civil society and communities can dialogue to develop laws that create more just and equitable societies. 


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


Cedriann Martin

Press centre