LGBT rights in the Marshall Islands

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StatusLegal since 2005[1]
Gender identityNo[2]
MilitaryHas no military
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Marshall Islands may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents.

Homosexuality has been legal in the Marshall Islands since 2005. Despite this, households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples, as same-sex marriage and civil unions are not allowed. The country possesses no laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

The Human Truth Foundation has listed the Marshall Islands at rank 88 for LGBT rights. This was similar to other Pacific nations, such as Palau (86), Nauru (87) and Micronesia (90).[3]

In 2011, the Marshall Islands 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]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 2005. The age of consent is equal at 16, regardless of sex and sexual orientation.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The Marshall Islands does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. Same-sex couples lack legal recognition.

Discrimination protections[edit]

There is no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.[1]

Despite a lack of anti-discrimination protections, there have been no known reports of societal discrimination directed against LGBT people.[5]

In 2016, the Marshall Islands received recommendations from Germany and Israel to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[2]

Living conditions[edit]

The Marshall Islands has a very limited gay scene. As of 2019, there are no known LGBT organizations in the country.[5] Debates and discussions surrounding LGBT rights tend to be "well off the radar".[2]

The largest religious community in the Marshall Islands is the United Church of Christ, whose American denomination permits same-sex marriage and holds liberal views on LGBT rights.

With regards to HIV/AIDS, the infection rate is very low. The Ministry of Health has included HIV/AIDS among its local health education programs, and public health clinics offer free testing.[5]

The Marshall Islands is home to a cultural "third gender" community, known in Marshallese as kakōļ. The term refers to men who "assume women's roles". Unlike many of their third gender counterparts in Oceania, such as the fa'afafine of Samoa or the fakaleiti of Tonga, the kakōļ typically do not cross-dress or identity as women. Instead, most kakōļ prefer to reveal their identity by wearing one item of women's clothing. They are thought to incorporate the strengths of both sexes, and thus serve an important role balancing the worlds of men and women. Kakōļ tend to have romantic relationships with typically masculine heterosexual men.[6] The term jera refers to close relationships between people of the same sex, though not necessarily romantic or sexual. These relationships, also known as "male bonding", appear to be valued by the Marshallese.[7]


A 2006 youth survey indicated that 4.3% of male youth in the Marshall Islands had had sex with a male partner sometime in their lives.[7]

According to 2017 estimates from UNAIDS, there were about 150 men who have sex with men (MSM) in the country, and about 100 transgender people.[8]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2005)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2005)
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 No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Archived 19 July 2013 at WebCite
  3. ^ LGBT Rights Across the World, Which are the Best and Worst Countries?
  4. ^ "Over 80 Nations Support Statement at Human Rights Council on LGBT Rights » US Mission Geneva".
  6. ^ Ehmes, Delihna (2016). "Vol 2 Gender in the Pacific". Center for Pacific Island Studies.
  7. ^ a b "Pacfic Multi-Country Mapping And Behavioural Study: HIV and STI Risk Vulnerability Among Key Populations, Republic of the Marshall Islands" (PDF). Pacific Multi-Country Mapping and Behavioural Study. Suva, Fiji. 2016.
  8. ^ Country factsheets: MARSHALL ISLANDS 2017