New York, USA – Days after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed one of the world’s harshest anti-gay statutes into law, All Out (www.allout.org) and the International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health (ICARH) in Nigeria reported a terrifying climate in which mass arrests are continuing and spreading unchecked across several localities.
ICARH confirms arrests of suspected LGBT people on January 15th and 16th and occurring in at least the Oyo, Imo, Anambra and Edo states in Nigeria. The BBC and other sources have reported 11 muslim men suspected of being gay are being tried in the northern state of Bauchi, where they could be stoned to death under Islamic law.
“We simply can not live in a world that allows any nation to round people up on the street and thrown them in jail simply because of who they are or who they love. President Jonathan has opened the floodgates and unleashed a torrent of official abuse and vigilantism. Leaders around the world and within Nigeria have an obligation under international law to demand an end to this madness,” said Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of All Out.
“Throughout history we have seen too many times what happens when a state abuses its power to persecute an innocent, though unpopular, minority. These have been the darkest moments of human society and unless we act now, we leave millions of Nigerians vulnerable to a similar fate.”
He added: “This is an assault on the rights of every Nigerian because any person in the country could be a person suspected of being gay. We urge leaders around the world and within Nigeria to work to repeal the anti-gay laws and act decisively to protect all Nigerian citizens from violence, arrest and discrimination.”
With phones ringing off the hook at their offices in Nigeria, ICARH spent most of the week fielding desperate calls from their partners around the country. The stories they received paint a picture of a rapidly spreading national crackdown that could have serious implications for the LGBT community and critical public health outcomes.
“This law will undermine the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the President’s Comprehensive Response Plan for HIV/AIDS [PCRP] to address the high burden of HIV among key populations and will reverse the progress made so far in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria,” said IIfeanyi Kelly Orazulike, Executive Director of International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health, a Nigerian organisation working to respond to the ongoing attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.
“The Act will also have adverse effects on healthcare practitioners who provide services to key populations including men who have sex with other men [MSM] as well as deny access to HIV services to persons in high-risk environments such as prisons,” he said.
The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan is reported to have signed the “Same-Sex [Prohibition] Act” into law on January 7th, after the National Assembly approved the bill in December. Although being gay is already a crime in Nigeria, the new draconian law bans anyone from attending a same-sex marriage ceremony, makes it illegal for anyone to form an organisation that supports LGBT people or even support the idea of a pride march. Prison terms for these offenses and others are set at up to 14 years.
Andre Banks said, ”This wave of new anti-gay legislation in Nigeria, in Uganda, in Russia, in Ukraine shows us how essential it is right now that people who care about love and equality around the world work together in solidarity. In each of these cases we see American religious interests fighting on foreign soil the cultural war they lost at home, allowing cynical politicians to scapegoat LGBT people for massive political gain. This is a global issue and these crackdowns are not happening in a vacuum — we must all stand against intolerance and discrimination wherever we see it.”
The UN Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights have both condemned the law because it violates fundamental rights and could provoke more anti-gay violence.
Nigerian Gay Men Arrested In Dozens After New Law Passes – AP
Nigerian Sharia enforcers emboldened by anti-gay marriage law – AFP
Nigeria: Rights Chief Assails Law as Roundup of Gays Begins – NYT