Nigerian Human Rights Group Issues Call to Action
December 1st, 2011
Nigeria’s Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights (CDSR) has issued a call to action against the Same Gender Marriage Bill, which passed the Nigerian Senate on Monday. The original bill was ostensibly relatively narrow in scope, imposing prison terms for those enter into any form of same-sex union, and fines for those who solemnize or witness it. But the broad wording for the definition of “Same Gender Marriage” which also included “other purposes of same sexual relationship” worried advocates that the bill would criminalize anyone living together.
As bad as that was, what emerged on Monday was far worse. The Senate’s Committee on Human Rights and Judicial Matters upped the penalties to fourteen years imprisonment for anyone entering into what they broadly defined as a “same gender marriage,” as well as ten years in prison for witnesses or “anyone who helps couples marry.” It also added new penalties making it illegal to register gay clubs or organizations, and criminalized the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.” Those who violate those provisions would face 10 years imprisonment. The CDSR says that those penalties were added as retaliation for the appearance of human rights advocates at the committee meeting to criticize the bill:
We are extremely concerned and disappointed with the conduct of the public hearing by the Senate Committee on Human Rights and Judicial Matters on the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011, which was held on Monday 31st, October 2011. A number of delegates from the US and EU countries missions in Nigeria attended the public hearing and noted the biased nature of the public hearing, which included name calling and profiling for civil society organizations and individuals activists opposing the bill.
… We fear that not only the Senate did not listen to the civil society expressing their contrariety to the bill, but in an unprecedented decision, it decided to punish the presence of civil society that was against the bill during the public hearing.
The group says that the new bill “brings us back to the most draconian version of the bill proposed in 2006.” (Some background on the 2006 bill can be found here. You can download the Senate version of the 2006 bill from the Nigerian Senate’s web site here (PDF: 144KB/3 pages). ) CDSR also warns that the bill “tries to criminalize homosexuality and any form of LGBT advocacy, seriously affecting freedom of speech, freedom of expression and association with severe criminal provisions,” and calls on the international community to mobilize as they did against the 2006 bill:
We call on ministers of foreign affairs, foreign missions accredited to Nigeria, international organizations and civil society to send formal letters and statements to the Nigerian president, to the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives asking them to:
- Withdraw the bill due to its implications on health, HIV/AIDS and protection of human right.
- Call on the Nigerian President and the Presidents of the Senate and the House of Assembly to guarantee safety and protection for all human rights defenders and all individuals irrespective of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or religion.
- Call on the Nigerian government and parliament to respect international human rights law, particularly their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Call on the Nigerian Government to remove discriminatory laws that criminalize sexuality, gender identity and expression in the federal and other parallel legal systems followed in the country.
We call on heads of governments, ministers of foreign affairs and other relevant officials, foreign missions accredited to Nigeria, presidents of Parliamentary Assemblies to raise their concern in public and in private with their Nigerian counterparts in any possible circumstance, making it clear that if this bill were to be approved Nigeria would place itself outside the community of democratic nations, in a moment in which the country is facing serious internal and external anti-democratic threats.