January 20, 2014, Washington, DC: TransAfrica is deeply concerned about a recently approved law in Nigeria that broadly criminalizes the lives of Nigeria’s LGBTQ population while directly violating fundamental human rights such as the rights to privacy, expression, and non-discrimination, and the freedom of assembly and association. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on January 7, 2014, is an attack on civil rights that presents a danger to all Nigerians.
TransAfrica joins the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in calling on Nigeria’s Supreme Court to immediately review the constitutionality of the new legislation.
“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,” stated Pillay.
“The U.S. response to this dangerous legislation should be swift and definitive. Nigeria’s anti-homosexuality law criminalizes an already vulnerable population, expanding the threat of violence, imprisonment and death for LGBTQ people and undermining the fundamental human and civil rights of all Nigerians,” said TransAfrica President Nicole Lee.
The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalizes all public displays of affection between same sex couples, and even worse, it could lead to individuals being imprisoned solely for their actual or assumed sexual orientation. It includes provisions for 14 year prison terms for anyone entering into a same sex union. Simply witnessing a same sex union can be punished with 10 years in prison.
There is also a ten year prison sentence for anyone who “registers, operates, or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations” including supporters of those groups. Experts from UNAIDS and the UN Global Fund, along with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC), have joined local Nigerian groups in raising the alarm about the impact this legislation will have on access to HIV services. Local LGBT and HIV/AIDS activists have already reported to HRC that police are illegally tapping cell phones and demanding bribes to not expose their sexual orientation.
Dorothy Aken'Ova, Executive Director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights said the new legislation “will endanger and even criminalize programs fighting HIV-AIDS in the gay community.”
Davis Mac-Iyalla of Changing Attitudes Nigeria, was among members brutally attacked and is now living in exile in the UK. He fears the new legislation will chase activists further underground. "The general context is the further punishment and criminalization of homosexuality," stated Mac-Iyalla.