African representatives at the ILGA's 23rd World Conference
His Excellency Joseph U. Ayalogu Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Geneva, 2 April 2006:
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations from 34 countries and all regions of the world, are outraged by Nigeria’s move to violate human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to the Nigerian National Assembly on March 30th of this year urging the National Assembly to ban same sex marriage or homosexuality in the country. The bill is entitled “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006”. The bill attempts to ban same sex marriage, but it does much more than that. It threatens the rights of Nigerians in violation of human rights treaties accepted by Nigeria. In particular, this bill presents a clear violation of Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The proposed bill establishes that any person who goes through, performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of five years’ imprisonment. Beyond that, vague provisions of the bill seemingly criminalize any direct or indirect action to register “gay clubs, societies and organizations”. And any person who provides sustenance, participates in meetings or otherwise provides publicity to promote gay rights or “same sex amorous relationships” also faces criminal penalties of up to five years, as do those who engage in any public or private show of same sex amorous affection.
The bill attempts to outlaw homosexuality and violates freedom of expression and association with severe criminal provisions. The laws in Nigeria already prohibit same sex sexual conduct. This proposed bill extends Nigeria’s already hostile legal environment to justify legal persecution of those who discuss the rights – or even the existence – of same sex amorous relationships. This law is certainly one of the most serious attempts to criminalize homosexuality and homosexuals in the last decades and is a sad reversal of human rights trends in Africa and the world.
The President’s letter was read on the floor of the House of Representatives by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon Austin Opara, who presided over the plenary session.
The President urged the National Assembly to give expeditious consideration and passage to the bill “because the problem has become topical and embarrassing in recent times”. The leader of the House, Hon Abdul Ningi, called on the House to commence debate immediately on the matter as an expression of urgency.
A letter sent a few weeks ago by several Nigerian, African and international human rights organizations to President Obasanjo requests that the Nigerian government abstain from introducing the bill and calls on President Obasanjo to oppose this effort. The matter is now even more urgent.
The new criminal provisions, if approved, will represent a serious threat for the life of every gay and lesbian as well as every advocate for GLBT rights and sexual rights, not only because of the potential enforcement of the bill by public authorities, but also as a result of likely persecution by paramilitary, religious and extremist groups that this bill tacitly encourages.
The undersigned participants to the ILGA twenty-third world conference express our deep concern over this critical situation and demand the following:
Withdraw the bill immediately.
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.
Respect international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Remove discriminatory laws that criminalize sexuality, gender identity and expression in all parallel legal systems followed in the country.
We await your immediate response to this matter.
5. BOSNIA – HERZEGOVINA
18. NEW ZEALAND
24. SOUTH AFRICA
26. SRI LANKA
32. UNITED KINGDOM
33. UNITED STATES