Human Rights Watch Calls on Nigerian President To Withdraw Legislation Criminalizing Homosexual Relationships
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo should withdraw legislation that seeks to make homosexual relationships illegal in the country, in part because it could hurt HIV/AIDS-prevention efforts, New York-based Human Rights Watch wrote in a letter to Obasanjo on Wednesday, SAPA/Independent Online reports (Vogt, SAPA/Independent Online, 3/23). The legislation, proposed in January by Minister of Justice Bayo Ojo, would carry a sentence of up to five years in prison for any person who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex ... performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same-sex marriage" or "is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same-sex amorous relationship[s] directly or indirectly in public and in private," according to the HRW letter. Such regulations would damage HIV/AIDS outreach and education efforts and fuel stigma and discrimination against people living with the disease, according to HRW (HRW letter, 3/22). Information Minister Frank Nweke earlier this year told the BBC, "Nigeria is a naturally conservative society and of course in most cultures in Nigeria same-sex relationship[s], same-sex marriage, sodomy and the likes of them are regarded as abominable." He added, "I don't think it is wrong to uphold the value system which has made the society in which we live what it is all through the ages" (Vogt, Associated Press, 3/23). Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at HRW, said, "This draconian measure will only intensify prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation," adding, "The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms that should be enjoyed by all Nigerians" (HRW statement, 3/23). The law awaits a vote by the legislature, where Obasanjo's governing People's Democratic Party has an overwhelming majority (SAPA/Independent Online, 3/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.