A statement developed by Pan Africa ILGA in response to the Nigerian Same Gender Prohibition Bill 2011
Pan Africa ILGA is shocked and outraged by the news that the Nigerian government is considering re-introducing a bill for an act to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender.
The fact that this action comes as Nigeria celebrates 51 years of independence makes it all the more distressing.
In 2006 and 2008 bills of this nature were abandoned following the statements of Nigerian human rights activists and allies, stating that the Bill was a violation of the rights of individuals and as such not appropriate in a modern democracy.
In 2006, 16 international human rights groups signed a letter condemning the bill, calling it a “violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly guaranteed by international law as well as by the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights”.
This present Bill seeks to further criminalise anyone who either enters into a same sex marriage or witnesses, supports, aids, a same gender marriage. Pan Africa ILGA sees this as directly threatening and opposing the work of human rights defenders and allies.
We further wish to remind the Parliament of Nigeria’s constitution, which lists the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Nigerians as the rights to freedom from discrimination, to personal liberty, to human dignity, and to private life, amongst others.
The Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill does not only threaten these rights, it also crushes the activities of human rights activists aimed at building and ensuring tolerance and respect of individuals, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity; and the countries human rights duties.
The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) came out encouraging countries to make progress in the area of LGBTI rights, and in particular the decriminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex.
In a speech on Human Rights Day (10 December) 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity…Where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day”.
Like any other form of discrimination, homophobia is born of ignorance. The Nigerian government must work with human rights defenders, activists and allies to change not just the law so it protects all human persons but also to change the attitude and minds of its people.
Pan Africa ILGA condemns this bill and believes that decriminalising homosexuality is necessary, and the first step, to genuine legal equality.