How the Cook Islands fought off the shackles of colonialism and freed its LGBTQ+ community


When Nerida Williams visited the Cook Islands late last year, she was struck by just how many Pride flags were dotted about the place. The Cook Islands, known as a religious and somewhat conservative place, is a self-governing territory in the South Pacific Ocean that has a free association with New Zealand. It has a population of around 17,000 people, meaning it sometimes gets overlooked in discussions about global LGBTQ+ rights. That all changed in April when the Cook Islands finally scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex. It was an empowering moment for the small island’s inhabitants, especially those who are LGBTQ+ and who had spent years fighting to see the law overturned.

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