Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Crimes Act 2013, which criminalises acts of ‘sodomy’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law. Additionally, the law criminalises the keeping of a place for ‘indecent acts’ between men, punishable with seven years’ imprisonment.

The law was inherited from New Zealand during the colonial period, in which the New Zealand criminal law, itself based upon English criminal law, was imposed upon Samoa. Although New Zealand decriminalised in 1986, it maintained the criminalising provisions at the time Samoa gained its independence in 1962, and Samoa retained the provision upon independence and continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity today. In 2013 Samoa updated its sexual offences and decriminalised ‘female impersonation’, which had previously impacted the indigenous Fa’afafine population.

There is no evidence of the law being enforced, and it appears to be largely obsolete in practice. Nevertheless, the mere existence of this provision is itself a violation of human rights and underpins further acts of discrimination (see further).

There have been limited reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, though there is some evidence of isolated violent incidents as well as societal and familial discrimination against the local Fa’afafine community.

Sexual Offence Law Assessment

Although Samoa continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity, in recent years it has updated its other sexual offence provisions and provides some protection for other marginalised groups.

Find out more


The US Department of State report found that the law is not enforced. This has been the consistent finding of these reports in recent years.

Discrimination and Violence


The US Department of State report noted that there were no reports of societal violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, though there were isolated cases of discrimination. Society accepted the Fa’afafine community, which plays a prominent role in the country, but members of the community reported some incidents of discrimination.


In June, the country’s main censor, Leiataua Niuapu Faaui, announced that a biopic on Sir Elton John, ‘Rocketman’, would be banned, telling local media that it was incompatible “with cultural and Christian beliefs here.” In 2009, Samoa also banned ‘Milk’, a film about American gay rights activist Harvey Milk, for similar reasons.


A report by the Samoan Ombudsman noted that verbal abuse against the Fa’afafine community was so common that many do not see it as worthy of reporting. Furthermore, young boys showing ‘feminine traits’ were subjected to severe violence at the hands of their family, and that this was not reported to police due to victim intimidation, fear of reprisals or of being disowned, and a lack of redress.


Local Organisations

Related Countries


Tonga criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment.


Tuvalu criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.

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