Monday, March 16, 2009

Attending A Gay Event Could Mean Jail Time In Nigeria

(Lagos) Nigerian gays who regularly face police persecution are coming out to fight a proposed law that would make it a criminal offense to attend a gay event, gather or attend a gay wedding anywhere in the world.

Homosexuality already is illegal in Nigeria, punishable by a prison term up to 14 years with hard labor. Under the proposed new law, a same-sex couple married anywhere and returning to Nigeria, or anyone who is married to a same-sex partner who travels to Nigeria -including foreign business people - would be jailed for up to three years.

The legislation also would imprison anyone who attends a gay wedding with up to five years behind bars. In addition, police would have the right to raid public or private gatherings of any group of people suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The National Assembly this week began holding public hearings on the bill and for the first time Nigerian gays openly testified. “This bill is not necessary, we see no reason why people should be criminalized,” Rashidi Williams, 23, of the Queer Alliance of Nigeria told the committee.
“I did not choose to be gay. It is trial enough to live in this country, we should not create more laws to make us suffer,” he said.

Williams went on to tell the committee that “We believe that we are created by God and do not wish to be discriminated against, we seek your help and appeal to you all to lay this Bill aside. We ask that the House of Representatives and our lawmakers work with us to understand the concept of sexuality and sexual orientation through our experiences and not create laws that punish us needlessly.”

The international groups Human Rights Watch and Global Rights also argued against the bill.
But a large number of Nigerian groups spoke in favor of the legislation, including the Anglican Church of Nigeria. In its submission to the committee, the church argued that “same-sex marriage is out to foist on the world a false sense of the family which will bring disastrous consequences to mankind.”

The church in its brief said that “same sex marriage, apart from being ungodly, it is unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian.”
“It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation,” the brief said.

In 2006, a similar bill was introduced but died when the government fell. It was reintroduced earlier this year. Amnesty International has expressed in the past concerns about human rights abuses against individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived sexuality.
In August 2007, police in Bauchi state arrested 18 men suspected of same-sex relations, charging them with belonging to an unlawful society, committing indecent acts, and engaging in criminal conspiracy. In 2008, several men and women were also arrested and detained on charges of engaging in consensual same-sex relations.

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