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Nigeria's president urged to reject 'jail the gays' bill

Activists pressure President Goodluck Jonathan not to approve law which jails all gay people and anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the authorities
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan urged to reject 'jail the gays' bill

Activists are calling on human rights supporters to pressure Nigeria's president to reject a 'jail the gays' law.

The bill would see people jailed for being gay and even imprisoned if they don’t report homosexuals they know about to the police.

Under the proposed law that has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives there would be a crackdown on LGBT people which could lead to a witch-hunt.

The legislation is now undergoing a clause-by-clause review by a Committee of the Whole House. It would then be presented to the President, Goodluck Jonathan, to sign into law.

Yemisi Ilesanmi, a bisexual Nigerian activist and coordinator of the campaign group, Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws (NLDAASSL), is urging people to push the president to reject the bill.

Ilesanmi said that in 2006 and 2009 attempts to pass similar legislation were thwarted by a combination of the legislation running out of parliamentary time and a strong campaign by Nigerian and international activists.

She added that if the president refused to accept the bill, the National Assembly would need a two-thirds majority to over-ride his authority and make the bill law without presidential consent.

However, Ilesanmi believes politicians could probably block a rejection of the legislation by the president in light of the recent overwhelming parliamentary votes in favour of the bill.

'If it became law, the bill would lead to political, legal and social harassment of people for their actual or imputed sexual orientation,' she said.

'It would also stifle freedom of expression and association through the proposed ban on organisations that support LGBT people and rights.

'Every Nigerian deserves the same right as every other Nigerian, irrespective of class, sex, race, gender identity or sexual orientation. Consensual adults do not deserve to have their love criminalised.

'LGBT rights are human rights and they are inalienable rights that should not even be voted on. This bill is homophobic and draconian. It should be dropped.

The online campaign group, All Out, has started a petition against the bill, which has so far gathered over 100,000 signatures.

'Every voice for human rights counts, whether local or international,' said Ilesanmi.

'Let us all come together as supporters of human rights to condemn this bill and demand equal rights for all. There should be freedom to love for all Nigerians.'

The west African nation already makes gay sex illegal and even punishable by the death penalty in the north part of the country but the new legislation goes much further.

Openly gay people would be imprisoned whether or not they have sex and LGBT organizations would be criminalized.

Anyone who knows somebody who is gay would have to tell the authorities or they could go to jail for five years.

Gay marriage would be punished by 14 years prison for the couple and 10 for anyone else involved in the ceremony. Even wedding guests could be jailed.

And ‘any person who directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships’ would get a 10-year sentence.

Veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has shown his support for Nigerian activists, claiming the bill is unconstitutional and could be challenged in the courts.

He said: 'The criminalisation of homosexuality is not an authentic national law that originated in Nigerian jurisprudence. It was imposed on Nigeria by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century. Despite Nigeria now being an independent country, this British colonial law has never been repealed.

'Our Nigerian colleagues are still hopeful that they can defeat the bill at the next stage. We stand in solidarity with their struggle for LGBT equality.'

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