The Kiribati sexual offences laws are found in the Penal Code 1977 (PC). The Evidence Act 2003 (No. 5 of 2003) (EA) contains the rules of evidence which apply to sexual assault offences.

The PC has not been amended since its introduction and the provisions assessed in this report need to be reformed to meet good practice standards. However, in 2003, after ratifying CEDAW, Kiribati amended the EA to exclude the corroboration rule for rape, which does conform to good practice standards for sexual offences law.

The law does not meet the good practice standards in a number of ways, including for example: sexual assault crimes that are not gender-neutral; definition of ‘rape’ that is too narrow and does not cover all acts of non-consensual sexual penetration of all orifices by any body part or object; and no definition of ‘consent’ requiring free and voluntary choice to engage in sexual activity. Most of the specific child sexual offences apply only to girls and there are no close-in-age defences for child sexual assaults to prevent criminalising consensual sexual activity between young people when one or both are under the age of consent. Consensual sexual activity with a person who has a disability is an offence and the PC uses the derogatory terms ‘idiot’ and ‘imbecile’. Importantly, marital rape and sexual assault are not explicitly prohibited under the PC. All non-consensual sexual acts should be expressly criminalised in the legislation in every circumstance without exception. Allowing a defence of marriage to a rape accusation violates human rights and is discriminatory. It also perpetuates sexual assault. Good practice requires that marital rape be explicitly prohibited.

The PC criminalises consensual same-sex sexual activity between men and uses derogatory terms such as ‘buggery’, ‘gross indecency’, ‘unnatural offences’ and ‘indecent practices’. Under the PC, ‘buggery’ is equated with bestiality. Laws that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity, such as ‘buggery’ and ‘sodomy’, should be repealed and all non-consensual sexual acts, including anal ‘rape’, should be included in the standard sexual assault provisions, such as ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’, as well as in child sexual offences. All of these crimes should be gender-neutral.

Kiribati is a state party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Kiribati is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Read more about the criminalisation of LGBT people in Kiribati.

The full assessment of Kiribati is available here.

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: THE PACIFIC

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: THE PACIFIC

This report examines the status of sexual offences legislation in the Commonwealth Pacific, assessing good practice and identifying where there are gaps in protection, with a particular focus on women, children, LGBT+ people and people with disability.

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

This report lays out criteria for good practice human rights compliant laws across four areas of sexual offences legislation, namely rape/sexual assault, age of consent for sexual conduct, treatment of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, and sexual offences in relation to people with disability.

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

Since 2015, the Trust's legislative reform programme has been analysing the need for the reform of sexual offence laws and delivering technical assistance to support such reform. Find out more about our Changing Laws, Changing Lives programme.

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