Cook Islands


Estimated Total Population:


Worldometer, 2020

Estimated SGM Population:



Estimated Total SGM Adult Population:



Estimated % of SGM Adults (18+):



In the Cook Islands*, homosexuality between males remains illegal. The Cook Islands Parliament attempted to decriminalize homosexuality in a draft Crimes Bill by removing "indecent acts between men" and sodomy from crime legislation in 2017. However, due to political pressure from community members, Parliament reinstated the ban in 2019. "Indecency between males" and sodomy remain illegal under Sections 154 and 155, respectively, of the 1969 Crime Act. An estimate for the population of Cook Island citizens who identify as non-heteronormative is unpublished as of yet. This dearth of statistics is likely due to the difficulties in surveying sexual and gender minorities, particularly in a non-Western context. Stakeholders involved in the Pacific Multi-Country Mapping and Behavioral Study: HIV and STI Risk Vulnerability among Key Populations determined that there are approximately 900 MSM in the Cook Islands, based on an extrapolation of the male population and information provided from MSM interviews. Of a sample of 674 Cook Island youth, 9.1% identified themselves in a questionnaire as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or akava'ine [transgender (Futter-Puati, 2017)]. 

*The Cook Islands is an associated state of New Zealand but has its own parliament. New Zealand oversees its foreign affairs and defense. 

Cook Islands' Laws and Policies from ILGA World Report (2019)

Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
Civil Unions
Joint Adoption
Second Parent Adoption
Employment Nondiscrimination Laws
Broad Protections
Criminalization of Violence
Ban of Conversion Therapy
Consensual Same-Sex Acts are Legal?
Male Only
Max Penalty (Yrs in Prison)

Selected Published Studies, Reports, and Other Documents

Empirical Studies:

Alexeyeff, K. (2000). Dragging Drag: The Performance of Gender and Sexuality in the Cook Islands. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 11(2), 297–307.

Alexeyeff, K. (2008). Globalizing Drag in the Cook Islands: Friction, Repulsion, and Abjection. The Contemporary Pacific, 20(1), 143–161. JSTOR.

Futter-Puati, D. (2017). Api’ianga Tupuanga Kopapa: Sexuality Education in the Cook Islands. An exegesis and project submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Retrieved July 9, 2020, from


Country Progress Report—Cook Islands: Global AIDS Monitoring Report 2018 | HIV/AIDS Data Hub for the Asia-Pacific Region. (2018). Retrieved July 13, 2020, from

Pacific Multi-Country Mapping and Behavioural Study: HIV and STI Risk Vulnerability among Key Populations –Cook Islands. (2016). Retrieved June 29, 2020, from

Second Generation Surveillance Survey of Akavaine and MSM in Cook Islands 2009. Te Tiare Association of the Cook Islands, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Rawstorne P and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (2010).


Douglas, J. (2015). Gay pride and prejudice in the Pacific. Labour & Industry, 25(3), 196–204.

Worth, H. (2011). Is the Myth of the Bisexual Infector Still a Myth? Reflections on HIV Risk and Men Who Have Sex with Men and Women. Journal of Bisexuality, 11(4), 488–492.

Literature on Culturally Appropriate Research Models:

Te Ava, A., & Page, A. (2018). How the Tivaevae Model can be Used as an Indigenous Methodology in Cook Islands Education Settings. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 1–7.