A report calling for Nigeria to repeal laws that legalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and people who are inter-sex and transgender. The report specifically attacks the anti-gay law, the “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2014” has encouraged evictions, mob attacks, police torture, and public whippings against gays, the groups say.
The report was co-authored by PEN America and PEN Nigeria, leading human rights organizations dedicated to freedom of expression and supporting literary works in Africa, and the Leitner Center for International Law of Fordham University.
The report titled “Silenced Voices, Threatened Lives: The Impact of Nigeria’s Anti-LGBTI Law on Freedom of Expression.”
The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2014 punishes gay relationships with 14 years in prison and belonging to a gay associations with 10 years in prison. It also criminalizes a failure to report homosexual activity to police which threatens the friends and families of gays living in Nigeria.
Nigerian human rights groups have documented 105 violations against gays including assaults, mob attacks, and blackmail since the passage of the law. One case in Bauchi, an undercover police officer joined a group being counseled about AIDS pretending to be gay. He arrested the 38 men there, tortured them, and provided their names to the public, leading to a witch-hunt. Many gay people fled Bauchi as a result of this incident.
The anti-gay law, “while purporting to target same sex marriage, has infringed upon rights to free speech, access to health care, housing, and employment, interfered with civil and political rights, and led to wholesale impunity for violence against LGBTI people.
“LGBTI Nigerians cannot express their identities, write or publish about their experiences, or even advocate for their own human rights,” the PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel lamented.
She added, “The law is essentially self-enforcing, barring most challenges to its own legality as prohibited LGBTI advocacy and effectively legalizing vigilante justice against gay individuals.”
The critics of the law argue that it distracts local populations from endemic problems like poverty, corruption, and failed education systems under the banner of “uniting in homophobia.” Leaders often stoke homophobic undercurrents to build support at the expense of the LGBTI population, they argue.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law in 2014.
The organizations behind this report are calling for current President, Muhammadu Buhari, to repeal laws that criminalize the expression of sexual orientation or gender identity to ensure Nigeria’s compliance with constitutional human rights obligations and internationally mandated protections.
“Free expression of one’s own identity and opinions is the bedrock of all human rights,” said Nossel.
“Where this right is denied, all forms of personal freedom are in jeopardy—for not just the LGBTI community, but also the population at-large.”