22nd December 2013
For Immediate Press Release
Press Statement: Queer Alliance Nigeria condemns adoption and passage of the harmonized version of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill (2013)
On Tuesday 17th December 2013, Nigeria’s Senate unanimously adopted and voted a harmonized version of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill which bans same-sex marriage, imposes a five year jail term for same-sex oriented people in committed relationships, penalizes unspecified public displays of affection, and criminalizes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) organizations, support groups and their allies, with the recent inclusion of banning any media expression of such. Queer Alliance strongly condemns the adoption of this bill and hereby calls upon the government to ensure that the constitutional rights of all Nigerians are protected irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Queer Alliance notes that existing legal principles and this proposition have created amplified conditions for unprovoked violence against LGBT people living in Nigeria which is exploited by corrupt system and goes unchallenged by legal institutions. Anti- human rights sentiments which include dehumanizing disgrace, beatings and public lynching on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity have become part of the jungle-justice legislative framework in Nigeria. This is truly tragic. Not only because our youth are unjustly accused and wasted without fair trial or the opportunity to contribute in their own strength to the economic development of their country of birth, but that some Nigerians choose to focus their sanctimoniousness upon an issue that does not in any way hurt or hamper fellow compatriots, when well-known drainers of Nigeria’s purse roam rich and free. How different would it be should they discover that these LGBT people are their own children or close relatives?
As a human rights organization for LGBT people in Nigeria, we are fervidly opposed to jurisdictive attempts to criminalize LGBT people through the charade of a ban on same-sex marriage, which no one has even asked for. It is clear that this bill is meant to serve as a cheap distraction from much bigger issues and to gain popular vote. Human rights are inclusive of sexual rights and these are protected in several international human rights treaties and other consensus documents to which Nigeria as a country pledged to uphold. We assert that the LGBT community does not request for any ‘special’ or ‘additional rights’, but for the observance of the same rights as those of every other Nigerian citizen. Marriage is far from the issue here; live and let live.
Queer Alliance will like to remind national legislators that the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill has not made a clear distinction between Same-Sex Marriage and the protection of the human rights of sexual minorities. Rather the harmonized version of the bill has even moved beyond draconian. Our concerns lie in Section 5(1-3) of the bill going against Article 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which is part of our national laws and also violates grossly, the fundamental human rights accorded to all Nigerians under Chapter IV of the I999 Constitution.
Section 5 (1) specifies that the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited. This provision of the bill violates the principle of the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly as enshrined by the constitution of the country.
Section 5 (3) specifies for the prosecution of any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same-sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment. This provision of the bill is in direct violation of the rights of sexual minorities to organize for the provision of their peculiar needs particularly as it pertains to health, in a country where there is no legal and social recognition of those peculiarities. This section of the bill violates the principle of non-discrimination and article16 and 20 of the African Charter on Human and People Rights which guarantees and protect the rights to highest attainable standard of health and self-determination respectively. LGBT people have a right to self-determination and on no grounds should these be violated inclusive of marriage.
Though many Nigerians may not approve of homosexuality, it does not thus require an outright ban on this human state of being. Much as we have learnt to overcome our tribal and religious differences to tolerate and accept each other despite them, we can also do the same with these well-meaning citizens of all caliber and professions that happen to be homosexual. As concerned Nigerians we would love to see laws that address the rampage of violence in our society, tackle unemployment, enforce political accountability and provide affordable healthcare for all. Not long ago were laws that oppressed humans on the basis of race, tribe and gender in Africa were overturned due to the recognition of their right to be human, free to contribute up to their full potential to society. Human rights promotion and protection is in itself a tool for the development that we yearn for as a nation. This bill will not keep homosexuality from existing any longer. It will rather cause further self-hate, abuse and malicious attacks on people who are simply minding their own business. Nigeria has a duty to protect all her citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
We at Queer Alliance are standing in the gap for Nigerian LGBT citizens and urge you to again revisit the bill with the following considerations:
1. Respect and recognize the constitutional rights of all Nigerians, inclusive of LGBT people, and act in accordance with the constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and other international treaties that call for respect of human rights and non-discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality to which Nigeria is a signatory;
2. Draw a clear distinction between same sex marriage and the human rights for all Nigerians irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Queer Alliance use this medium to call on individuals and institutions to join voices and action to strengthen the rule of law and the protection of the human rights for all Nigerians. In particular, we challenge religious and traditional institutions to support efforts in entrenching a culture of human rights in Nigeria even when these issues conflict with their faith.
As an organization, Queer Alliance commits to creating a strong human rights philosophy in Nigeria and pledge to continue to support the struggles of marginalized groups in ensuring that their rights and freedoms are protected.
Queer Alliance Nigeria