LGBT rights activists, The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) Nigeria have urged Nigeria’s president to intercede with that country’s Senate to quash the anti-same-sex marriage bill set for discussion today.
Following up on the organisation’s call to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, to reconsider laws that criminalise consensual same-sex in their respective countries, TIER’s Executive Director Akoro Joseph Sewedo said, “We call on the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria- Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to intercede with the House of Senate to disregard the bill to prohibit same-sex marriages in Nigeria, which will be discussed in public hearing on Monday, October 31, 2011.”
Last week in Australia, TIER Nigeria urged the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to reconsider anti-gay laws.
In a statement Sewedo said, “The implications of these laws are enormous, especially on HIV programs. Men who have sex Men (MSM), which is the group mostly targeted by these laws have demonstrated very high HIV prevalence amongst other Most-At-Risk-Population (MARP).”
He added, “For instance in Nigeria, the 2007 Integrated Bio-Behavioural Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) revealed a prevalence of 13.5 per cent amongst MSM. This figure is higher than the prevalence amongst Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs) and slightly lower than that of sex workers.”
Sewedo backed up his appeal saying, “The Commonwealth’s Eminent Persons Group (EPG) has confirmed our concerns in its report to the Commonwealth.”
In his appeal, Sewedo quoted the EPG statement which said, “We have also received submissions concerning criminal laws that penalise adult consensual private sexual conduct, including between people of the same sex in many Commonwealth countries.”
The EPG statement added, “These laws are a particular historical feature of British colonial rule. They have remained unchanged in many developing countries of the Commonwealth despite evidence that other Commonwealth countries have been successful in reducing cases of HIV infection by including repeal of such laws in their measures to combat the disease. Repeal of such laws facilitates the outreach to individuals and groups at heightened risk of infection. The importance of addressing this matter has received global attention through the United Nations. It is one of concern to the Commonwealth not only because of the particular legal context but also because it can call into question the commitment of member states to the Commonwealth’s fundamental values and principles including fundamental human rights and non- discrimination.”
Echoing the EPG statement Sewedo said, “Therefore, TIER calls on the Commonwealth Heads of Government to consider the adoption of the EPG’s recommendation to encourage the repeal of discriminatory laws that impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/Aids epidemic, and commit to programmes of education that would help a process of repeal of such laws.”