Nigeria Human Rights Defenders condemn 2011 Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill

30 September 2011
For Immediate Release
Minna, Niger state
Ikeja, Lagos state

We, the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights were shocked and deeply concerned by the news published in the Nigerian press about the re-introduction of “A bill for an act to prohibition marriage between persons of same gender, solemisation of same and for other matters related therewith”

Similar bills appeared before the House in 2006 and 2008 and were critically analysed both times by human rights activists, who articulated the dangers of the bills to a democratic society.

We wish to remind the parliament that Nigeria is a secular state. This means that the laws of our land cannot and should not be drafted and/or enacted on the basis of a particular religious and cultural value. These values already indicate the diversity of Nigeria as a heterogeneous society–hence our federal system of government.

We as human rights defenders are aware that not a single gay group has asked for the right to marry. Our advocacy is not directed at that.  We are advocating for tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of his or her sex, gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc. These rights are not illusionary. They are rights that Nigeria’s same –sex loving people derive from Chapter IV of the Nigerian constitution, which lists the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Nigerians, including the rights to freedom from discrimination, to personal liberty, to human dignity, and to private life.

Furthermore, we feel deeply threatened by the proposed paragraph 4(2) of the bill, which provides greater criminal liability to anyone who abets and aids same-sex marriage. An individual would face up to five years’ imprisonment.

This provision clearly targets the activities of human right defenders, who have a mandate, without limitation, to defend the rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in its Article 7, specifically provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance.”

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders has repeatedly expressed concern over attacks on defenders “who are at particular risk, namely those who defend the rights of indigenous people and minorities [and] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons and women human rights defenders.” (UN Doc A/HRC/4/37, January 24, 2007, at 55).

Already, in 2006, the Special Representative condemned the previous version of this bill in a letter to the Nigerian government. This bill would increase the risk to human rights defenders, and would violate Nigeria’s human rights obligations.

As citizens and human rights defenders, we demand our rights. As tax-paying Nigerians, we demand the efficient use of our financial resources. We request the Senate to disregard this ominous bill, and consider instead discussing life saving legislation, including the Anti-Stigmatization bill and National Health Insurance bill.

For more information contact:

Dorothy Aken’Ova:

Akoro Joseph Sewedo:

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