A gay couple attacked on the island of Fiji is staying silent, fearful of reprisals.
The two men, attacked over the weekend, have asked not to be identified—and have not gone to police—because "they feared for their lives," according to the Fiji Sun.
A police spokesperson said there's not much that can be done if the victims don't want to file a complaint: “We would encourage them to come forward and report because that is the best way they could address the issue.”
The men claimed the attack happened early Sunday morning in Valelevu: “While we were walking towards the road, two teenage boys approached us, smiling," said one."They made some sexually subjective comments towards us. We ignored them and continued to flag down a cab and all of a sudden one of them punched my friend.
When he went to try and stop the attack, the same assailant pushed him to the ground. "My lips were cut and bleeding,” he said.
Ashwin Raj, director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, condemned the attack and called on the victims to come forward, saying “silence will mean fear and discrimination will flourish.”
In 1997, Fiji became only the second country in the world to explicitly protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The country's constitution was abolished in 2009, but the new version ratified in 2013 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, too, as well as gender identity or expression.
"The fact that our Constitution has based strong provisions on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination means that we need to ensure that our society is free from discrimination," said Raj.
"These communities can live without fear, without reprisal and recrimination because they express a sexual value that is not shared by others.
Still, the country's Methodist and Catholic heritage means homosexuality is generally viewed negatively. (The government has been known to cancel Pride marches.) In 2001, Red Cross leader John Maurice Scott and his partner, Gregory Scrivener, were brutally murdered in Suva, in an alleged hate crime.
Last year, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called marriage equality "rubbish,” and insisted gay couples should “go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there.”
Raj insisted Fiji "must strongly condemn these acts of violence because violence begets violence. And we must extend the same kind of human dignity to them that others enjoy and they have the same constitutional rights as everybody else."