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UN independent experts oppose proposed Nigerian ban on same-sex relationships

UN independent experts oppose proposed Nigerian ban on same-sex relationships

Voicing serious concern over a proposed Nigerian bill which would effectively outlaw same-sex relationships, four independent United Nations experts today said it would violate international human rights norms, and urged the Government to withdraw it immediately.

In a joint statement, the experts said the proposed “Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith” would endanger the lives of those engaged in, or believed to be engaged in, same-sex relationships.

Such people, as a result of the law, would be “more susceptible to arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and ill-treatment and expose them even more to violence and attacks on their dignity.”

They pointed out that Nigeria has already criminalized same-sex relationships, which are punishable by death. In a recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, according to the statement, Government representative asserted that death by stoning for “unnatural sex acts,” such as lesbianism and homosexuality, may be considered “appropriate and just punishment.”

Additionally, the experts said the proposed law, heard before the Judiciary Committee of the Nigerian House of Representatives last week, could deny those taking part in same-sex relationships of the enjoyment their economic, social and cultural rights. Of particular concern, according to the experts, is that the Bill could force stigmatized groups further underground, thus weakening efforts to educate people about and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The proposed Bill also contravenes several Articles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Under the law, Article 1, which declares that ‘(a)ll human beings are born equal in dignity and rights,’ would be breached, as the Bill codifies discrimination and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, the experts said.

Furthermore, freedoms of assembly and associations, as well as individuals’ freedoms of expression and opinion, would be impinged upon, they added. Local human rights defenders advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people could potentially be imprisoned under this law, if passed.

The statement was issued by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani; the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk; and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt.