On 29th November 2011 in Nigeria the Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage Bill went unopposed through the Senate – the country’s highest chamber. Under the new bill, same-sex couples entering into either marriage or cohabitation would face jail terms of up to 14 years. Those “witnessing” or “abetting” such relationships would also face custodial sentences, and groups that advocate for gay and lesbian rights could also be penalized for up to 10 years.
The bill as approved, criminalizes the provision of HIV prevention intervention services for sexual minorities in Nigeria since CSOs and NGOs providing these services would be considered to be “aiding” and “abetting”.
Nigeria is one of 53 African countries that have ratified/acceded to The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter) an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent.
The Charter recognizes that the right to equality, freedom from discrimination and association, freedom of information and expression, and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are regarded as universally accepted civil and political rights. The Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage Bill infringes on these rights and is thus discriminatory and in breach of the charter.
In light of Nigeria’s international human rights obligation plus the Nigerian constitution which provides for human rights promotion, Nigeria is in direct violation of its own laws. (The Initiative for Equal Rights, Nigeria.)
The World Association for Sexual Health endorses the recent resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC June 17 2011) on the rights of homosexual and transgendered individuals which calls for an end to sexual discrimination and recognizing the matter as a “priority issue” of the U.N.
Therefore we urge the immediate dismissal of this bill and demand that Nigeria honors its commitment to human rights.
The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) rejects all and any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.