On 7 January 2014, Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed an extraordinarilyrepressive bill into law: the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill criminalises Lesbians andGays in Nigeria. The law also criminalises anyone who advocates for human rights forLGBTI people.
After months of delay, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, signed the Anti HomosexualityBill in to law on 24 February 2014; the law makes some homosexual acts, namely“aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life in prison.
The new laws in both Nigeria and Uganda, which add to previously existing legislation,mandates years in jail for people in same-sex relationships. According to existing laws,consensual same-sex activity is punishable by the death penalty in Northern Nigeria.
The new law has unleashed a wave of anti-lgbt violence across Nigeria and Uganda; manypeople have lost their homes, their jobs and live in fear of their lives. There have been reportsof mass-arrests and on Sunday 9 February, the New York Times reported that a court inNigeria’s Bauchi State publicly whipped a man after being convicting him of havingconsensual sex with another man.
Naome Ruzindana, a Ugandan human rights defender now based in Sweden but still verymuch involved in the struggle, commented, “Museveni’s statements are contradictory, oncehe said Uganda does not have gay persons, another time, he said the only problem isexhibition of sexuality is not in the African tradition which meant he acknowledged theirexistence but his problem was their action in public.”
On 30th January, a video of two gay men forced to perform sex acts with each other in publicin Nigeria went viral. The video shows a mob of people jeering and abusing the victims asthey were forced to perform in a way that was both degrading and humiliating.
“Shocking… many Nigerians are still ignorant of the full implications of the antigay law andextent to which it criminalizes everyone for everything” says Dorothy AkenOva,spokesperson for the ‘Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights’ Nigeria. She continues,”Our success to repeal this law or render it redundant lies in building alliances and masseducation on the content of the bill”.
On 24 February, Uganda’s Red Pepper Newspaper published the names and photographs of200 people known to be gay or lesbian and incited further violence and arrest under the newlaw.
“It is totally sickening,” said Ugandan refugee Stosh Nate Jovan.
Not only does the law violate Nigeria and Uganda’s own constitutionally-guaranteed right tofreedom of assembly, it also contravenes many of the international treaties ratified by bothcountries. UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay had this to say about the law:“
Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so manybasic, universal human rights.” She added, “Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rightsto freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrestand detention: this law undermines all of them.”
The Global Interfaith Network strongly condemns the undemocratic and discriminatory lawsand calls on Nigeria and Uganda to meet their obligations under international human rightslaw. We believe that under no circumstances can religious belief sanction or allow thealienation and violence which these bills are already inciting against people simply on thegrounds of their sexual orientation.
GLOBAL INTERFAITH NETWORK urges the Nigerian and Ugandan government to:
• Ensure that the human rights of LGBTI individuals and human rightsdefenders are not violated.
• To reject and repeal discriminatory laws and eliminate all existing legislationthat discriminates based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
• To take measure to recognise the health, safety and rights of all minorities.
Global Interfaith Network
We envision a just world in which the dignity, faith, spirituality and human rights ofpersons of all sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions arehonoured, supported, and protected.