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Nigeria’s constitutional responsibility and the criminalisation of homosexuality

By Konye Obaji Ori
Posted on Thursday, 16 January 2014 17:04

The rights of every single Nigerian protected by the 1999 constitution has been put under critical scrutiny after Jonathan discounted the larger implication of such a law to democracy.

We are not telling Nigeria what kind of legislation it should have, that is for Nigerian people

As the United Nations warned, the legislation could undermine the safety and humanity of the country’s most vulnerable sub-group.

“The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them,” Ban Ki Moon’s press office said in a statement.

Criminalising homosexuality, or homosexuals for being homosexual, is antithetical to human rights and dignity, not just because it is inconsistent with the legal obligations enshrined in a number of international agreements to which Nigeria is a party, but because it discriminatory, and oppressive.

“We are concerned about the human rights and freedoms of all Nigerians as enshrined in Nigeria’s own constitution and as enshrined in international conventions to which Nigeria is a party.” European Union Managing Director for Africa, Dr. Nicholas Westcott, stated on Wednesday in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

The British government expressed disappointment that the Nigerian same sex marriage Bill had received Presidential sanction.

“The UK is a close friend of Nigeria, but we are disappointed that President Jonathan has given his assent to a Bill which will further criminalise same sex relationships in Nigeria. The UK opposes any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” UK’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jeremy Wright told reporters.

“We trying to explain to you clearly what our concerns are so that our position can be understood, just as we want to understand Nigeria’s position on it,” read Westcott’s statement.

Popular reactions to the law by Nigerians suggest a belief in the idea that homosexuality is just a foreign culture being forced upon Nigerians or Africans. And criminalising homosexuality is a statement of resistance. The EU has moved to assuage such a position.

“We are not telling Nigeria what kind of legislation it should have, that is for Nigerian people. We are not advocating that homosexuality or same sex marriage should be recognised. We are not trying to impose our morality or our culture; Nigeria has its culture, Nigeria has its approach of doing things and there should be mutual respect,” Westcott added.

Whatever a certain number of Nigerians would chose to believe about homosexuality, criminalising homosexuals violates the fundamentals of democracy, and puts at risk some of the fundamental freedoms that should be accessible to all Nigerians.

Criminalising homosexuality sets Nigeria backwards, undermines its credentials on the global stage, and limits its capacity to be a transcendental society, responsible to the entirety of citizenry.

Human rights, including freedom of association, conscience, speech and equality of persons, is under threat in Nigeria as some provisions of the new Act appear contradicts what is guaranteed by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

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