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by Joseph Sewedo Akoro

Last week saw a very busy time at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. As usual, diplomats and NGO representatives flocked the building to discuss several human rights issues in the world. On last week’s agenda was the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) outcomes of the countries reviewed last October, amongst which was Nigeria.

Nigeria accepted several recommendations but “noted” others relating to death penalty as well as issues of human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The United States of America (USA) expressed disappointment in Nigeria not committing to the “noted” recommendation and also share specific concerns about the Same Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act 2013. In the same vein, several NGOs expressed concerns and highlighted violations that have occurred since the signing of the Act. Among these presentations was the one presented thus:

Joint statement of ILGA, the Solidarity Alliance for Human Rights and the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights- Nigeria
UPR outcomes of Nigeria
25th session of the Human Rights Council
Thursday, 20 March 2014

– Delivered by Ifeanyi Orazulike

We are deeply concerned about the disturbing human rights situation presented by the Same Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act signed by the President of Nigeria on 7th of January 2014.

Its title is misleading. This new law actually criminalizes the freedom of assembly of all Nigerian citizens, the freedom of expression of sexual minorities, as well as anyone who supports or sustains them, including human rights defenders or those who express opinion that challenges the conduct of the government, with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Following the presidential assent to the Act in January, innocent Nigerians have been targeted based on perceptions of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Series of mass arrests and mob violence has been recorded in different parts of Nigeria and perpetrators have enjoyed impunity.

Mr President, we will like to bring to your notice the following few cases amongst several:

  1. On the 23rd Jan 2014 an angry mob calling for persons alleged homosexuals to be hanged, threw stones into a court where the persons were being prosecuted in Bauchi State in Northern Nigeria.
  2. On the 12th and 13th of Feb 2014, in Gishiri village in the capital city of Abuja, a mob of about 40 persons attacked and severely battered 14 young men alleged to be homosexuals, forcing them to flee their homes at midnight. These men remain homeless in Abuja as we speak.
  3. Other cases include blackmail and extortion often with the connivance of law enforcement agents.

Last October, the Attorney General of Nigeria- Barrister Mohammed Bello Adoke said and I quote “there will not be any witch-hunt of homosexuals in Nigeria”. However, this law is currently being used for this purpose of witch-hunt and very little effort is made by the Police to prosecute perpetrators of this violence.

We are extremely disappointed that, of all the recommendations made my member states to the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the recent UPR session, to protect its sexual and gender non- conforming citizens, not one was accepted, on the premise that the majority of Nigerians are against homosexuality. The opinion of the majority does not excuse the State from carrying-out its constitutionally required mandate to provide security for all and ensure there is a favourable environment for the enjoyment of human rights by all persons in Nigeria.

Mr President, we use this opportunity to call on the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:

  • To investigate all cases of violence suffered on basis of perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity, if required in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission.
  • To thoroughly review its penal and administrative laws with a view to repealing all discriminatory laws including those that adversely affect women, children, persons with disabilities, refugees, ethnic and sexual minorities.

    Thank you.

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