LGBT rights in Tonga

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LGBT rights in Tonga
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Male illegal, female legal
Up to 10 years in prison, corporal punishment. (not enforced)
Gender identity/expression
Military service _
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption No

Homosexuality is illegal in Tonga, with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. However this is considered an out of date law, which like Tongan law was inherited from traditional English common law, and there have been no known reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons under this provision.[1]

The Kingdom of Tonga comprises 176 islands, so the acceptance of homosexuality varies from island to island. Generally most Tongans tolerate male homosexuality. Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious. The Tongan government requires all religious references on broadcast media to conform to mainstream Christian beliefs.[2]

Many gay and lesbian Tongans often emigrate to Australia or New Zealand in order to live a more open life that they may not get to experience in their native land.

Traditionally, Tongan culture is supportive of transgenderism in the form of fakaleiti. In fact, there is an annual transsexual beauty pageant competition called Miss Galaxy Pageant, which is sponsored by the government and local businesses.

There is also an LGBT association known as the Tonga Leitis' Association, which is headed by Joey Mataele, who is an influential individual in Tongan society. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, regardless of sexual orientation.[3]Tonga does not recognize same-sex unions in any form.[4]

The Criminal Offences Act[edit]

Male consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Tonga with a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. The offenders may also be whipped as a punishment if convicted.[5]

Section 136. Sodomy and bestiality. Whoever shall be convicted of the crime of sodomy with another person ... shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any period not exceeding ten years....

Male rape is also illegal in Tonga:

Section 137. Assault with intent to commit sodomy. It is an offence for a person to assault another person with intent to commit sodomy.

Section 138. Indecent assault on man. It is an offence for a person to make an indecent assault on a man.

Section 139. Attempted sodomy, indecent assault upon a male. Whoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime of sodomy or shall be guilty of an assault with intent to commit the same or of any indecent assault upon any male person shall be liable at the direction of the Court to imprisonment for any term not exceeding 10 years.

Section 140. Evidence. On the trial of any person upon a charge of sodomy or carnal knowledge it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed but the offence shall be deemed complete on proof of penetration only.

Section 142. Whipping for certain offences. Whenever any male person shall be convicted of any offence against sections ... 136 and 139 of this Act the Court may, in its discretion in lieu of or in addition to any sentence of imprisonment authorised under this Act order the person so convicted to be whipped in accordance with the provisions of section 31 of this Act.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No For male (Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment; not enforced) / Yes For female
Equal age of consent No For male / Yes For female
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No


  1. ^ Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Tonga
  2. ^ "Tonga travel advice - GOV.UK". Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Tonga. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Tonga". Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Criminal Offences". Retrieved 27 July 2015.