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Nigerian LGBTIs launch online petition slamming ‘Jail the Gays’ bill

Nigerian LGBTIs launch online petition slamming ‘Jail the Gays’ bill

Nigerian LGBTIs have joined forces against the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition bill, also known as the ‘Jail the Gays’ bill, passed by the Nigerian House of Representatives last week (30 May).

Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti Same Sex Laws, an independent gay rights campaign group, have launched an online petition urging President Goodluck Jonathan not to sign the homophobic bill into law.

The online petition says that the ‘Jail the Gays’ bill infringes the human rights of Nigerian LGBTI people and treats them as criminals, not citizens. Groups also accuse the bill of going against the spirit of the Nigerian constitution, which the president swore to uphold.

Yemisi Ilesanmi, the Coordinator of the Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Group, said the president was the only one who could now stop the law. She said the sudden passing of the bill had come as a ‘surprise’ and she had been ‘in shock’ when she first heard the news.  

The group are asking the international community to stand in solidarity with them and to support the human rights of Nigerian LGBTI people.

The draconian ‘Jail the Gays’ bill stipulates 14 years in jail for same-sex marriage and 10 years imprisonment for a public show of same-sex affection. The bill also stipulates 10 years in jail for anyone who supports a gay person, witnesses a gay marriage or advocates LGBTI rights.

‘LGBTI rights are human rights’, stressed Yemisi. The bill is a ‘blatant violation of the human rights of Nigerian LGBTI people’.

The bill violates fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution and various regional and international human rights laws ratified by Nigeria.

If the bill is signed into law, the rights of LGBTI Nigerians, from free speech and to freedom of association, will be curtailed because of the ban on groups supporting LGBTI people and their rights.

The group claim the bill is already allowing the police to intimidate and persecute LGBTI Nigerians.

Some fear that if the bill is signed into law, there will be official state sanction for the intimidation, harassment and persecution of LGBTI Nigerians.

Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora say the argument that gay relationships are against African culture is using culture to sanction homophobia and is a form of cultural oppression. Some activists even say the bill is an attempt to erase homosexuality from Nigerian life.  

They argue that consenting adults entering into a committed lifetime relationship should not be criminalized by the state. The state should not concern itself with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes.  

Nigeria’s sodomy law, on which the bill is based, is a relic from British colonization, but Britain and many of its former colonies have since repealed the law.

Yemisi told GSN that international aid to Nigeria should not be cut or stopped. Instead, she says international aid should be based on genuine human need and not tied to human rights. A more effective action for foreign governments to take rather than stopping aid is to refuse government visas to homophobic countries abusing LGBT rights, she said.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders, groups, individuals and civil society organizations in Nigeria have written an open letter condemning the bill and calling for its immediate withdrawal.

They are calling on the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Office of the President of Nigeria to immediately consult with the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders on the human rights implications of this bill and to withdraw the bill.

The letter is signed by: AL – Centre for Human Development, Alliance for Africa and Nigeria Feminist forum, Changing Attitude Nigeria, Coalition for the Defence of Sexual Rights, International Centre for Advocacy on Rights to Health, International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, Improved Youth Health Initiative, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, Queer Alliance, The Initiative for Equal Rights, The Initiative for Improved Male Health and Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative.