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Nigeria’s criminalisation of same-sex unions and associations condemned by IBAHRI

Tuesday 4 February 2014, by siawi3

INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION’S

HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE

NEWS RELEASE

[For immediate release: Thursday, 30 January 2014]

Nigeria’s criminalisation of same-sex unions and associations condemned by IBAHRI

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) strongly condemns the criminalisation of anyone who ‘performs, witnesses, aids or abets’ a same-sex marriage ceremony in Nigeria following the signing into law of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill by the country’s President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this month.

Considered a severe clampdown on gay relationships in general, the new law significantly restricts freedoms of assembly and expression, and is set to impose heavy jail sentences of ten to 14 years on anyone involved in:

same-sex marriage;
the ‘public show of same sex amorous relationship’; and
the ‘Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations’, including ‘meetings’.

Commenting on the new legislation which takes immediate effect, IBAHRI Co-Chair Sternford Moyo said, ‘The IBAHRI is deeply concerned about the adoption of this repressive law as it contradicts most basic freedoms held under international human rights treaties and standards. As a signatory to such international instruments Nigeria’s Constitution consequently guarantees these fundamental human rights.’ He added, ‘The Nigerian Constitution 1999 affirms that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law†and that “the sanctity of the human person shall be recognised and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced†. The Constitution also guarantees freedom of assembly where it states that, “every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and assoc iate with other persons…†The new law contravenes the Constitution and together with the broadly defined terms of “same sex marriage†and “civil union†renders people extremely vulnerable to imprisonment where accusations of private same-sex acts are recounted without evidence. Reports of recent arrests in a number of Nigerian states made under the new Act, together with the criminalisation of individuals based on sexual orientation, is of deep concern to the IBAHRI which firmly believes that countries across the world should protect the human rights of all their citizens. We call on Nigeria to uphold this principle.’

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

The Nigerian Constitution 1999:

Section 17(2)(a): ‘every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law’.
Section 17 (2)(b): ‘the sanctity of the human person shall be recognised and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced’.
Section 40: ‘Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests’.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights guarantees the equality of all people (articles 2 and 3), the right to freedom of expression (Article 9), freedom of association (Article 10), and freedom of assembly (Article 11). Article 26 stipulates that ‘[e]very individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding, and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.’ In 2006 the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights found that the guarantee of equal protection includes sexual orientation.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria acceded in 1993 without reservations, affirms the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination (articles 2 and 26). The ICCPR guarantees the right to information and to freedom of expression (Article 19), freedom of assembly (Article 21), and freedom of association (Article 22). In 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that sexual orientation is protected under the ICCPR, and ruled that laws criminalising consensual, private same-sex sexual acts are a violation thereof.
The penal code, in northern Nigeria, and the criminal code, in southern Nigeria, already impose up to a 14-year prison term for anyone who has ‘carnal knowledge’ or ‘carnal intercourse’ with any person ‘against the order of nature.’ The Sharia penal code, in northern Nigeria, criminalises ‘sodomy’ with imprisonment, caning, or death by stoning.

Twitter: @IBAHRI http://tinyurl.com/ob2fobl

In 2010 the IBAHRI Council adopted a resolution opposing discrimination and other breaches of human rights directed at people on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Resolution commits the IBAHRI to promoting and protecting these values through its work.
Click here to download the IBAHRI ‘Resolution on Sexual on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights’

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, US, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Programme (IBA ICC) is managed from an office in The Hague.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
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International Bar Association
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