World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Nigeria: Anti-LGBT Law Threatens Basic Rights

‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Specter Used to Criminalize Expression, Association, Assembly

January 14, 2014

(Abuja, January 15, 2014) – The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill signed into law on January 7, 2014, by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria is a sweeping and dangerous piece of legislation, Human Rights Watch said today. The law criminalizes public displays of affection between same-sex couples and restricts the work of organizations defending gay people and their rights. President Jonathan should immediately repeal the draconian law.

The law imposes a 14-year prison sentence on anyone who “[enters] into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union,” and a 10-year sentence on individuals or groups, including religious leaders, who “witness, abet, and aid the solemnization of a same-sex marriage or union.” It imposes a 10-year prison sentence on those who “directly or indirectly make [a] public show of [a] same-sex amorous relationship” and anyone who “registers, operates, or participates in gay clubs, societies, and organizations,” including supporters of those groups.

“This law criminalizes the lives of gay and lesbian people, but the damage it would cause extends to every single Nigerian,” said Graeme Reid, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights director at Human Rights Watch. “It undermines basic universal freedoms that Nigerians have long fought to defend and is a throwback to past decades under military rule when civil rights were treated with contempt.”

The Nigerian Senate approved the bill on November 29, 2011, and the House of Representatives passed it on its third and final reading in May 2013. A “harmonization committee” finalized the bill in December, preparing the way for President Jonathan’s signature.

The new legislation could lead to imprisonment solely for a person’s actual or imputed sexual orientation. People could face charges for consensual sexual relations in private; advocacy of LGBT rights; or public expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The terms “same-sex marriage” and “civil union” are so broadly defined in the law that they include virtually any form of same-sex cohabitation.

“The law is so vague that it is likely to lead to the arbitrary arrest of gay people, while facilitating extortion and blackmail of vulnerable groups by members of Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt security services,” Reid said. “This law threatens to further marginalize an already stigmatized population, driving them underground and imperiling their rights and their health.”

Mainstream human rights organizations in Nigeria could be threatened for opposing the law, and have said they fear speaking out about it. Funders or supporters of LGBT rights and related work in Nigeria could also face increased scrutiny under the law, Human Rights Watch said.

Nigeria has the world’s third-largest number of people livingwith HIV/AIDS, and its National Agency for the Control of AIDS has recognized the need to target vulnerable groups in HIV/AIDS outreach efforts, including people who engage in same-sex conduct. The law will hinder their efforts by criminalizing those who conduct outreach to LGBT groups. By banning undefined “gay meetings,” it could also criminalize programs funded by major donors that provide education on HIV prevention and health for men who have sex with men.

The law contradicts fundamental freedoms under international human rights treaties and standards, which the Nigerian Constitution also guarantees. The Nigerian Constitution, under section 40, guarantees that: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union, or any other association for the protection of his interests.” Section 17 affirms that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law.”

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights similarly guarantees the right to freedom of expression (article 9), freedom of association (article 10), and freedom of assembly (article 11), and the equality of all people (articles 2 and 3). Its article 26 prescribes that: “Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding, and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.” The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights stated in 2006 that the guarantee of equal protection extends to sexual orientation.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria acceded without reservations in 1993, also guarantees the rights to information and to freedom of expression (article 19), freedom of assembly (article 21), and freedom of association (article 22). The ICCPR affirms the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination (articles 2 and 26). The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance with the ICCPR, concluded in 1994 that sexual orientation should be understood to be a status protected from discrimination under these articles, and ruled that laws criminalizing consensual, private same-sex sexual acts are a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed in the ICCPR.

The criminal code, in effect in southern Nigeria, and the penal code, in northern Nigeria, already impose up to a 14-year prison term for anyone who has “carnal knowledge” or “carnal intercourse” with any person “against the order of nature.” As Human Rights Watch documented in a 2008 report, these laws are Victorian-era provisions that remained after the end of British colonial rule. Sharia penal codes, introduced in northern Nigeria since 1999, criminalize “sodomy” with caning, imprisonment, or death by stoning. Same-sex marriages or civil unions are not recognized in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and there is no move to legalize same-sex unions.

For nearly 30 of its first 54 years since independence in 1960, Nigeria was ruled by successive military dictatorships. Human rights and democracy activists were arrested, media freedom was restricted, and due process rights were suspended. Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

“This is the most repressive law restricting these fundamental rights since the end of military rule,” Reid said. “If the government can strip one group of its freedoms, then it can legislate away the rights of others.”

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

ANZAC Commemorations - Scoop Team Coverage

Nepal Quake Response : NZ USAR team stood down

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says that the New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue team due to leave for Nepal overnight has been stood down. "“Our USAR team has been on stand-by since Sunday and was due to head to Nepal last night. Prior to their departure, the Nepalese Government informed us that they had enough USAR capability in-country and our team was no longer required." More >>

Earlier: NZ Govt. NZ USAR team to Nepal & Fire Service - USAR team leaves tonight for Kathmandu (Image Red Cross twitter)

 

United States: Riots In Baltimore – National Guard Sent In [graphic Images]

Riots have broken out in Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old black man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody. More>>

West Papua: “Lest We Forget”

AS Anzac approaches and Australians and New Zealanders remember those who fought and lost their lives on Anzac Day, it is hoped we will also remember the unfree people of the Pacific region and in particular those who are still suffering from human ... More>>

Iran: 81 Executions In One Week

Coincident with mass executions in the prisons of Ghezel-Hessar, Karaj and other cities, the anti-human regime of mullahs sent 16 other prisoners to the gallows in Mashhad and Birjand (northeastern Iran). Twelve of them were hanged collectively ... More>>

Al-Shabaab: Four Unicef Staff Killed In Somalia

Four UNICEF staff members have been killed in an attack on their vehicle in Garowe, Somalia. Four other UNICEF colleagues are in a serious condition. The IED (improvised explosive device) attack occurred when the staff were travelling from their guest ... More>>

UN: Suicide Attack In Jalalabad Condemned

NEW YORK/KABUL/GENEVA (18April 2015) – “I strongly condemn the brutal suicide attack that coincided with my visit to Jalalabad today,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović during his visit to Afghanistan. ... More>>

Save The Children: STC Urges EU Leaders To Act To Prevent More Mass Drownings

Save the Children Urges EU Leaders to Act to Prevent More Mass Drownings at Sea. More>>

ALSO:

Japan: Independent Experts Slam Japan’s New Whaling Plan

Independent experts slam Japan’s new whaling plan and declare no more whales need to be killed for Antarctic research More>>

Gaza Strip: Attacks In The Border Areas

Following disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Israel unilaterally and illegally established a so-called “buffer zone”, an area prohibited to Palestinians along the land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip. The precise area designated by ... More>>

Australian Government: Iraq Deployment: Joint Press Conference, Canberra

Back in March, the Government announced that we were preparing a force for a Building Partner Capacity training mission in Iraq. I can inform you that today the Cabinet has decided to deploy that force. The deployment will start tomorrow and we expect ... More>>

UNHRC: UN Committee Against Torture To Review New Zealand

UN Committee against torture to review New Zealand, Congo, Romania, Luxembourg, Spain, Serbia, Colombia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia More>>

UNHRC: Nigeria: One Year On, Call To Bring Back Abducted Children

Nigeria: One year on, UN and African experts call for decisive steps to bring back abducted children More>>

EU & US Let Iran Win Top Seat On UN Women’s Rights Board

EU & US Allowed Iran to Win Top Seat on UN Women’s Rights Board, Rights Group Says More>>

Peaceful Tree Planting Attacked By Zionist Settlers/soldiers

Peaceful tree planting attacked by zionist settlers and soldiers, two Palestinians hospitalised and a German activist arrested. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news