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Human Rights And Legal Implications Of The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill, 2011 For Every Nigerian Citizen
A briefing Communiqué for
His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
The Senate and the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
An analysis prepared by Nigerian civil society organizations, human rights organizations, feminist and women's rights groups, social health workers, social and economic justice activists and NGOs
This is the third time a Bill prohibiting same sex marriage is introduced by the Nigerian parliament. The proposed law is titled ”Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill, 2011”, however, it goes well beyond the title to criminalise every Nigerian person(s), individual and group who may be suspected of any trace, exhibition, association and or characteristic of same sex relationship, friendship, association or gesture.
It is very important when Bills are proposed by members of parliament that all Nigerians look closely into them to see what implications they would have for every Nigerian, irrespective of gender, sex, religion, creed, culture, sexuality, tradition, origin, ethnic group and political opinion. Often, when laws are introduced, most Nigerians do not understand their provisions and implications for their daily lives as citizens of Nigeria. Civil society organizations in Nigeria have a duty to inform and educate the citizens, as well as lawmakers, about oppressive and dangerous implications in potential legislation.
The proposed Same Sex Marriage Bill 2011 was passed by the Senate on the 3rd reading on 29th November, 2011. It also passed through a first reading at the House of Representatives on 7th December, 2011. This analysis seeks to analyse and highlight its grave implications on the daily lives of every Nigerian.
With this bill Nigeria and Nigerians will be shown to be untrustworthy and incapable of upholding and domesticating international treaties and conventions which they have signed and ratified. From the perspective of foreign investors, the inability to uphold international agreements raises the question of whether their investment and personnel can be safe in the hands of such untrustworthy partner. At a time when the country is on a drive to attract direct foreign investment, this bill also stands as a threat to the economy.
According to the 2010 UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly) report on Nigeria, 3.6% of the population is comprised of people living with HIV/AIDS – i.e. more than 5.5 million people. The bulk of the support to curb the spread of the virus and support those already infected or affected is coming from international donors. Many of the people living with HIV/AIDS are heterosexuals and if organizations geared to help them are barred, as in this bill, this will have a catastrophic effect on stopping the rate of new infections and helping those already infected.
It is worth noting for all Nigerian citizens that the proposed bill aims at:
prohibiting any form of de facto cohabitation between two individuals of the same sex or gestures that connotes same sex relationship directly or indirectly. If this bill becomes law male-male or female-female holding of hands, touching each other, making eye gestures, hugging or any display of affection will be evidence for conviction and 10 years imprisonment
The Bill also aims to:
restrict the right to freedom of expression;
restrict the right to freedom of association;
restrict the right to freedom of thought, including the freedom of conscience and religion;
target human rights defenders who speak out for the human rights of individuals and communities, as well as advocates for sexuality, reproductive rights and the right to health; and, ultimately, target the rights and safety of persons who either identify as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, or, who simply do not fit conservative gender roles and stereotypes, as well as anybody who is related to them or sympathetic of them promote widespread social control, intrusive to individual privacy.
Finally it targets any legal defense and representation for persons or groups involved in in any real or perceived same-sex related case.
Thus if the proposed legislation is passed into law Nigeria would violate many of its obligations under our own constitution, our own laws, and, international human rights law.
Violations of international human rights law which would result from the bill, include of Article 22 (freedom of association), Article 19 (right to freedom of opinion and expression) of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Similarly they would violate Article 9 (freedom of expression), Article 10 (right of free association), Article 11 (right of assembly), Article 12 (right of residence) and Article 8 (the right to have one’s cause heard and to a defense – including by the counsel of one’s choice) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). Since the ACHPR was adopted into Nigerian law in 1983, the provisions of this bill violate our own national laws also.
Of principal concern for all Nigerians is that Sections 5 and 7 of the revised and final copy of the bill reach far beyond its scope to attack freedom of assembly and speech, among other rights. The bill, as currently revised,, is extemely likely to encourage discrimination against all individuals regardless of their sexuality, and in fact constitutes an incitement to violence, ill-treatment and torture.
Specific sections for concern to all Nigerians (Please see the PDF)