WGNRR Letter to Nigerian president regarding the same sex marriage prohibition act

In reaction to the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law in Nigeria that criminalizes not only same sex marriage but also any advocacy and support for the rights of sexual minorities, WGNRR is calling the Nigerian Government to repeal that law and respect sexual rights in Nigeria.

We therefore, urge our members, partners and allies to mobilise actions and support for Nigerian LGBTQI! Kindly adapt the letter below and hand a copy to the Nigerian Embassy nearest you. Find the locations of Nigerian Embassies HERE.

You can also email the letter to the President of Nigeria <info@nigeria.gov.ng> and copy furnish Senator David Mark <sjbent2000@yahoo.com>, Prof. Bem Angwe  <chidiao@hotmail.com> and post the letter on Prof. John Idoko's Facebook page www.facebook.com/nacanigeria.

We must end the arrests, torture and killings of Nigerian LGBTQI and make sure that the Nigerian communities of LGBTQI to live a life free from violence and discrimination!

February 10th, 2014
HE Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria
Radio House, Herbert Macaulay Way (South) 
Area 10, P.M.B. 247, Garki – Abuja, Nigeria 
E-mail:  info@nigeria.gov.ng  
Senator David Mark, President of Nigerian Senate                 
Office of the President of the Senate
National Assembly Complex, Three Arms Zone
P.m.b 141Garki Abuja, Nigeria
Email: sjbent2000@yahoo.com 
Prof. Bem Angwe, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission
19 Aguiyi ironsi street, Maitama
Email :chidiao@hotmail.com
Prof John Idoko, Director General
National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (NACA)
Plot 823, Ralph Sodeinde Street, Central Area, 
Abuja, Nigeria 9000001
Subject: Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law in Nigeria.
Your Excellences,
Greetings from the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). 
WGNRR is a Southern-based global network that builds and strengthens movements advocating for the full realization of the sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice of all people. Our work is grounded in the realities of those who most lack economic, social and political power.
As a network of more than 1000 members around the globe advocating, promoting and defending sexual rights and reproductive rights, especially of those who are most marginalized, WGNRR would like to express our deep concern regarding  the enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. We appeal to your good understanding of Nigeria’s human rights obligations under international law to call on Nigerian authorities to repeal the above law. 
We believe that this law is a significant blow to the steady progress of democracy in Nigeria. It criminalizes not only same sex marriage but also any advocacy and support for the rights of sexual minorities. It also prohibits any public discussion or expression of gay and lesbian lives and any organizing around sexual orientation. In doing so, it violates the basic rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, as well as internationally recognized protections against discrimination on any grounds. 
The enacted law will result in the division of and discrimination against the Nigerian homosexual population, as well as their exclusion from participation in public life, which goes against the inclusive spirit necessary for Nigerian economic as well as political development. Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African, and in violation of Nigerians’ basic human rights. 
Just over a month there has been a marked and worrisome increase in violence towards homosexual Nigerians, as well as towards any individuals perceived to be affiliated with the Nigerian LGBTQI community. This violence has resulted in the unwarranted arrests of more than 45 people suspected to be gay in the Northern part of Nigeria, and is likely to result in arbitrary detentions and the deaths of several Nigerians. The enacted law further aggravates stigma and hatred, and renders void all promised protections enshrined in the Constitution for all Nigerian citizens. The law also sets a dangerous precedent, signaling that any Nigerian’s privacy is subject to violation, that all of civil society could be at risk of attack, and that the work of all human rights defenders and civil society members in Nigeria is endangered.  Women human rights defenders who work on sexual and reproductive rights issues are particularly at risk of grave consequences, as they are often perceived to be “challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in society”, as said by several United Nations Special procedures. 
This law violates Nigeria’s most basic obligations to the rights and wellbeing of its people. By signing international treaties and entering the international community, the Nigerian government has undertaken the obligation to promote and protect the human rights of its population, without discrimination on any grounds. Also, Nigeria has repeatedly pledged to defend these fundamental freedoms in its Constitution; it has also signed treaties binding the country to international human rights law and standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Protection System.  
In this sense, we would like to reiterate the words of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report on “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.” This report, which is based on human rights standards and was developed in response to alleged human rights violations resulting from laws similar to the aforementioned law in Nigeria, establishes that:  
“The criminalization of private consensual homosexual acts violates an individual’s rights to privacy and to non-discrimination and constitutes a breach of international human rights law. […] the Human Rights Committee found that “adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of “privacy” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to the Committee, it is irrelevant whether laws criminalizing such conduct are enforced or not; their mere existence continuously and directly interferes with an individual’s privacy.71 [...]The Committee, other treaty bodies and special procedures have repeatedly urged States to reform laws criminalizing homosexuality or sexual conduct between consenting adults of the same sex, 72 and have welcomed their repeal.73” 
“Special procedures have raised concerns regarding restrictions on freedom of expression – including direct censorship, bans on dissemination of information and restrictions on legitimate advocacy – purportedly justified on grounds of alleged threats to public health, morality or State security.126  Restrictions on information on sexual orientation, including those allegedly intended to protect “public decency”, can have a deleterious impact on public health efforts, including in relation to transmission of the HIV virus.127” 
“The Human Rights Committee has held that States are not required, under international law, to allow same-sex couples to marry.131 Yet, the obligation to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation extends to ensuring that unmarried same-sex couples are treated in the same way and entitled to the same benefits as unmarried opposite-sex couples.132” 
In this sense, we urge the Nigerian government and Senate to:
Continue to respect and fulfill its international and regional human rights obligations, furthering the growth of democracy and non-discrimination.
Repeal this law, which establishes a new and totally undemocratic level of policing private life. 
Take all the necessary measures to: 
- release all suspected LGBTQI people arrested countrywide; and
- decriminalize same sex marriage in accordance with the principles of promoting and protecting the human rights of its population enshrined in human right treaties binding the country to international human rights law and standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Protection System.
We believe it is time for Nigerian communities of sexual minorities to live a life free from violence and discrimination. We trust that you will take all measures necessary to repeal this inhumane law, and ensure that Nigerian laws conform with the international treaties and human rights standards to which Nigeria has committed. 
Kathy Mulville
Executive Director

[1]UNHCHR, Report “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” A/HRC/19/41, 17 November 2011 para. 41.

[1]A/HRC/19/41, para. 65

[1]A/HRC/19/41, para. 68.