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P14.15 In the system (tongan system) but out of place
  1. Joey Joleen Siosaia
  1. WCA Mataele – Tonga Leitis’ Association/Pacific Sexual Diversity Network

Abstract

Introduction Since HIV/AIDS was discovered in the early 80s, and the first AIDS Victim came to Tonga from the United States, 19 people have lost their lives to the virus leaving many children and MSM/TG with more discriminations for our Communities. Since then there has been a lot of Stigma and Discriminations on our young MSM/TGs. These children have been forced out of school, engaged in hard labour, prostitution or high risk behaviours that make them vulnerable to contracting HIV. With support from international donors and local resource efforts.

Methods Tonga Leiti’s Association (TLA) has a long and complex history. It’s a history of survival. Its history has been governed with diverse and contesting ways of understanding, filled with contradictions, categorization, labelling and marginalisation. Hence, these ways of knowing problematizes TLA and its pupils in a normative ways. It situates them outside the ‘normal’ ‘Anga FakaTonga’ (Tongan ways) mainly because their distinctive behaviours are perceived as falling outside the ‘Anga FakaTonga’ awareness of acceptable behaviour and attitude. It is, therefore, position Leitis as ‘children of the devil’. The TLA and its pupils are variously described as being at-risk, vulnerable, stigmatised and lacking agency.

Results Moreover, their lives are equated with having a ‘lack of hope and mobility’ so they are seen as being on a pathway that leads to ‘poverty’ and isolation from normative model and space in Tongan society. We recognised that through positioning outside the ‘normal Anga FakaTonga’, there is a tendency to perceive TLA and its pupils in a simplistic way and thus treat them as a marginal community.

Conclusion However, it must be acknowledged that this tendency to stereotype TLA and its pupils displays a lack of awareness for their:

  • active agency and the fact they have some control over their life journey,

  • contributions to Tongan civil society,

  • distinctive cultural, gifts and artistic talents,

  • support to the business communities,

  • capacity to support the younger Leiti’s pupils,

  • capacity to educate the general public regarding the sexually transmitted diseases – HIV/AIDS and STI’s, and

  • Marketing of Tonga to the international communities.

Disclosure of interest statement The Tonga Leiti’s Association (TLA) is a Registered Association in the Kingdom of Tonga. The TLA works as an advocacy organisation focused on the promotion of the rights and creating a dialogue about issues facing the transgendered community in Tonga. The TLA aims to oversee any opportunities addressing human rights and also to carry out awareness to its members. As a Registered Association of Tonga the TLA is required to have board members which include representatives from the government and non-government organisations. The TLA is a voluntary organisation and all of the staff are volunteers. I am the current Executive Director of the TLA and the current Chairperson of the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network. The Hon. Lupepau’u Tuita from the Tongan Royal Family is the Patron of the TLA. At the Annual General Meeting there are appointed positions that are tasked with the administration and operating of the Association.

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