Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, eight others ask Jonathan to veto anti-gay bill

Gays and their collaborators risk 14 years in jail in Nigeria

The groups stated their position in a statement on Wednesday.

A group of 10 local and international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately veto the recently passed ant-gay bill by the National Assembly describing the bill as “draconian” and a “throwback to the past decades under military rule when civil rights were treated with contempt.”

The House of representative, taking a cue from the Senate, on May 30 passed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill. The bill imposes a prison sentence of 14 years on anyone found guilty of engaging in same sex relationship and a 10 years prison sentence to anyone who witnesses, aid and abet, or “registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations” or “makes a direct or indirect public show of same sex amorous relationship.”

In a joint statement released Wednesday, the organisations said the “new bill that would formalize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and have wide-ranging effects on civil liberties in the country.”

The organisations said if Mr. Jonathan signs the bill into law, it would “criminalize freedom of speech, association, and assembly.”

“It would provide for prison sentences for anyone who speaks out in support of, meets with, or forms a group advocating for the rights of LGBTI people. It criminalizes the lives of LGBTI people, but the damage it would cause extends to every single Nigerian,” said Lucy Freeman, Deputy Director of the African Programme of Amnesty International.

“It undermines basic freedoms that Nigeria’s civil society has long fought to defend. The civil rights of Nigerians cannot simply be legislated away. “It undermines basic freedoms that Nigeria’s civil society has long fought to defend. The civil rights of Nigerians cannot simply be legislated away,” she said.

“The loosely defined terms of the law mean that a large number of people will be under suspicion of cohabiting as same-sex couples or supporting same-sex relationships,” said Adebisi Alimi, a Nigerian gay and civil rights activist., quoted by Amnesty International.

The organisations also said, if signed into law, the bill will have far reaching effect such as hampering the work of health workers helping to roll back the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the country. According to The National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, 3.4 million Nigerians lives with HIV/AIDS making the country the second largest country with people living with the disease.

“The proposed law would hinder such efforts by criminalizing those who conduct outreach to LGBTI groups. It would drive some groups affected by the epidemic further underground for fear of imprisonment,” they said.

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