LGBT rights in Tuvalu

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StatusMale illegal, female legal
PenaltyUp to 14 years in prison (not enforced)
Gender identityTransgender people cannot legally change gender
MilitaryHas no military
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Tuvalu may face challenges not faced by non-LGBT people. Sections 153, 154 and 155 of the Penal Code outlaw male homosexual intercourse. This also applies to private consensual sex, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison, but the law is not enforced.[1][2]

Tuvalu is home to a significant transgender population, called the pinapinaaine, who historically played certain societal and communal roles.[3]

In 2011, Tuvalu signed the "joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity" at the United Nations, condemning violence and discrimination against LGBT people.[4]


Tuvalu, much like the rest of Polynesia, used to be very tolerant of same-sex relationships and transgender people before the arrival of the Europeans and Christianity. Bisexual relations were also quite commonplace among the islands, as many island kings kept both male and female partners in their royal huts for intimate relations.[3]

People who are assigned male at birth but live and behave as women are called pinapinaaine in Tuvalu, and historically had certain societal roles, such as basket weaving. They were also known for their talent to elaborate dance ceremonies.[5] Nowadays, the pinapinaaine are still often seen in Tuvalu.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

The Penal Code prohibits male homosexual intercourse. According to the United States Department of State, there were no reports of prosecution of consenting adults under these provisions.[6] The age of consent for heterosexual and lesbian sex is 15.

Penal Code[edit]

  • Section 153: Unnatural offences

Any person who — (a) commits buggery with another person or with an animal; or (b) permits a male person to commit buggery with him or her, shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

  • Section 154: Attempts to commit unnatural offences and indecent assault

Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in the last preceding section, or who is guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or any indecent assault upon any male person shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

  • Section 155: Indecent practices between males

Any male person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or private, shall be guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to imprisonment for 5 years.


According to a 2005 study, about 14% of young Tuvaluan men between the age of 15 and 24 had had sex with a male partner sometime in their lives.[5]

According to 2017 estimates from UNAIDS, there were about 300 men who have sex with men (MSM) in the country, and about 40 pinapinaaine (transgender people).[3]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (For males, not enforced)/Yes (For females)
Equal age of consent No (For males)/Yes (For females)
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
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Has no military
Right to change legal gender Emblem-question.svg
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tuvalu Penal Code
  2. ^ GlobalGayz Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c Country factsheets: Tuvalu 2017
  4. ^ "Over 80 Nations Support Statement at Human Rights Council on LGBT Rights » US Mission Geneva".
  5. ^ a b "Global AIDS Progress Report of Tuvalu" (PDF). Ministry of Health Tuvalu. 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2017.