AUCKLAND, 07 NOVEMBER 2019 (STUFF NZ)—A Pacific community advocate is urging people to boycott the Cook Islands after the nation went back on a promise to decriminalise homosexuality.

Grey Lynn Business Association leader Soala Wilson, 59, said she was “disappointed” by the move, which came after pressure from church leaders in the Pacific nation.

The move to reinstate a ban on “indecent acts” and sodomy, and make the law gender neutral, would mean gay people – both men and women – could be sentenced to between five and seven years in prison.

Wilson, who runs the Works Hair Salon in Grey Lynn, grew up in Samoa and moved to Auckland in 1970 when she was 10.

She said the move showed Pacific nations continued to “deny the rainbow community their right to exist”.

Even in Auckland, some Pacific communities were “still in the dark ages” when it came to accepting homosexuality, she said.

Wilson said she had a very religious upbringing, “as many Pacific people do”, and would read the Bible before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I lived most of my childhood in fear that my parents would find out I was attracted to girls.”

Wilson said she hoped the church would work more with rainbow communities to combat bigotry, rather than pressuring governments to pass anti-gay legislation.

“If the church truly believes it is the mouthpiece of God, it should preach love and not hate.”

Openly gay Auckland councillor Richard Hills took to Twitter to weigh in on the matter and said he would no longer feel safe visiting the island nation.

“It’s 2019! The Cook Islands were going to decriminalise homosexuality but after pressure from church leaders, MPs will now make the law stronger & including 5-year jail terms,” he wrote.

A new SAP Concur study found 95 per cent of LGBTQ people have felt the need to hide their sexual orientation due to safety fears while travelling. (PACNEWS)