Nigerian human rights activist organizes petition against anti-gay bill

A Nigerian human rights activist, Yemisi Ilesanmi, has created an online petition opposing the anti-gay bill currently before the Nigeria senate.

The bill was introduced into the upper chamber of the Nigeria parliament in July 2011 by Senator Domingo Obende. An analysis of the bill has revealed that the drafter is not only targeting homosexuals, but also human rights defenders who advocate gay rights.

In the petition, Ilesanmi argues that the bill is inconsistent with provisions of the Nigeria constitution and international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory:

“Section 42 of Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination against person on the basis of sex or membership of a group. Also, section 34 guarantees the right to the dignity of the human person. It states: Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”

With regards to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights she added, “This regional law affirms the equality of all people. Article two of the law states: Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognizes and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.”

Ilesanmi explained that “Article 26 of the law prescribes: Every individual shall have duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.”

She then wrote about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) saying, “Articles two and 26 affirm the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination. Article 18 and 19 protect the rights of freedom of expression and conscience. Also 21 and 22 protect Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association.”

As for the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Ilesanmi said, “Article 5 of this declaration affirms: Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: a) to meet or assemble peacefully; b) to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, association or groups.” Article 7 also states 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.”

Ilesanmi argued, “Sodomy law is a relic from British colonization.” She mentioned that the British parliament had since repealed the Sodomy law alongside other former dominions such as Canada, Australia, South African and India.

She asked, “Why is Nigeria clinging and seeking to strengthen this antiquated law through the proposed anti-same sex relationship bill?”

She also called time on Senator Obende’s argument that any sexual act or relationship that deviates from the standard heterosexual norm is against African culture.

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