Friday, 31 October 2014

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Nigerian "anti-homosexuality" law makes bad situation worse

Picture: Flickr / Marlith / 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Only in Africa and Asia do individuals still risk paying for their sexual orientation with their lives. In five countries, legislation remains in place that punishes homosexuality with the death penalty - Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In 76 countries, adult, same-sex relationships are criminalized.

In parts of Nigeria and Somalia, the murder of gay and lesbian individuals is practised and not prohibited in state legislation.The United Nations human rights chief has voiced her alarm at a “draconian” new law in Nigeria that further criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them.

In many places homosexuals are murdered by vigilantes while the state turns a blind eye. In Jamaica, where homophobia is deep-seated, Dwayne Jones, a "cross-dressing" 17-year-old was "chopped and stabbed to death" by a mob according to local media reports. Incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation is only prohibited in 26 countries.

12-10-2013Navi PillayAs Nigeria joined the “club” of countries with severe punitive legislation directed towards the LGBT, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was clear in her statement: “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights. Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention: this law undermines all of them.”

Nigeria’s Senate approved a revised version of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill in December, and President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Act into law earlier this month, according to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR).

The Act includes a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union, and a 10-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony. “Even before this Act was signed into law, consensual same sex relationships were already criminalized in Nigeria – violating rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination, both of which are protected by the Nigerian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified,” Ms. Pillay stated.

“This draconian new law makes an already bad situation much worse,” she said. “It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more.

The High Commissioner warned that the law also risks reinforcing existing prejudices towards members of the LGBT community, and may provoke an upsurge in violence and discrimination. She expressed hope that the Supreme Court of Nigeria would review the constitutionality of the new law as soon as possible.

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