From the Peter Tatchell Foundation
While the world is focused on Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, the Nigerian House of Representatives has unanimously approved even more sweeping and draconian homophobic legislation, the “Jail the Gays” bill. It could become law within weeks.
The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, which now moves forward to the next parliamentary stage, criminalise same-sex marriages and civil unions, with penalties of up to 14 years jail for participants and 10 years jail for anyone who assists or witnesses such a marriage or union.
It also stipulates a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for support of gay organisations and events, advocacy of gay human rights and for public expressions of same-sex affection.
Heterosexual allies of the Nigerian LGBT community will face also jail under some key clauses.
The online LGBT campaign group, All Out, has a petition against the bill, which has so far gathered over 100,000 signatures.
“The bill is now undergoing a clause-by-clause review by a Committee of the Whole House. It was previously voted to be passed into law by the Senate. Since then, it has been approved at the Second Reading stage in the House of Representatives. It could become law within weeks. If approved by both houses of parliament, the bill would then be presented to the President, Goodluck Jonathan, to sign into law,” said Yemisi Ilesanmi, a bisexual Nigerian activist and coordinator of the campaign group, Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws (NLDAASSL).
“Pressure can be put on the President to refuse to give his assent to the bill. In 2006 and 2009 attempts to pass similar legislation were thwarted by a combination of the legislation running out of parliamentary time and a strong campaign by Nigerian and international activists.
“If the President refused to accept the bill, the National Assembly would need a two-thirds majority to over-ride his authority and make the bill law without presidential consent. Given the recent overwhelming parliamentary votes in favour of the bill, politicians could probably block a rejection of the legislation by the President.
“If it became law, the bill would lead to political, legal and social harassment of people for their actual or imputed sexual orientation. It would also stifle freedom of expression and association through the proposed ban on organisations that support LGBT people and rights.
“Every Nigerian deserves the same right as every other Nigerian, irrespective of class, sex, race, gender identity or sexual orientation. Consensual adults do not deserve to have their love criminalised. LGBT rights are human rights and they are inalienable rights that should not even be voted on. This bill is homophobic and draconian. It should be dropped.
“Every voice for human rights counts, whether local or international. Let us all come together as supporters of human rights to condemn this bill and demand equal rights for all. There should be freedom to love for all Nigerians,” said Ms Ilesanmi.
For a full statement on the bill by Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora against Anti-Same-Sex Laws, see here.
The human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation is supporting the Nigerian activists. Its Director, Peter Tatchell, said:
“This bill violates the equality and non-discrimination guarantees of Article 42 of the Nigerian Constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which Nigeria has signed and pledged to uphold. See details below.
“There is a good chance that this bill, and Nigeria’s long-standing criminalisation of same-sex relations, can be challenged in the courts. This could be a future option for LGBT campaigners and human rights defenders.
“Nigeria already has a tough anti-gay law that designates up to 14 years jail for men who have sex with men. In northern parts of the country, where sharia law prevails, gay and bisexual men can face the death penalty.
“The criminalisation of homosexuality is not an authentic national law that originated in Nigerian jurisprudence. It was imposed on Nigeria by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century. Despite Nigeria now being an independent country, this British colonial law has never been repealed.
“Our Nigerian colleagues are still hopeful that they can defeat the bill at the next stage. We stand in solidarity with their struggle for LGBT equality,” said Mr Tatchell.
In opposing the bill, the All Out petition organisers have been working with partner organisations in Nigeria, including Changing Attitude Nigeria, Improved Youth Health Initiative, Initiative for Advancement of Humanity, International Centre for Advocacy on Right to Health, Sexual Minorities Against AIDS in Nigeria, The Initiative for Equal Rights, The Initiative for Improved Male Health – plus Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws.
This news release has been drafted and issued in consultation with Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora against Anti-Same-Sex Laws:
- Yemisi Ilesanmi
- Davis Mac-Iyalla
- John Adewoye
- Mojisola Adebayo
- Toyin Ajao
- Nieros Oyegun
Background briefing and analysis
Read Sanyu Awori and Rithika Nair of the Strategic Initiatives Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative:
42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject;
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law. 2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.