Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Human rights group urges Nigeria to repeal its anti-gay law

Nigeria's draconian law against gays has encouraged mob attacks, police torture, evictions and public whippings, according to a report Monday that urges the country's new president to repeal the legislation.

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act is "the constitutionalization of hate and hate crimes against LGBTI individuals," writes Bisi Alimi in the report published by the PEN American Center and the New York-based Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.

It calls for President Muhammadu Buhari to end the legalized discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex minorities, charging it denies them freedom of expression, association, assembly and other rights guaranteed by Nigeria's constitution and international covenants signed by Nigeria.

The act became law here 18 months ago and calls for punishment of up to 14 years in jail for gay marriage and up to 10 years for organizing or belonging to a gay group.

The law makes it a crime to not report a homosexual to police, threatening the families and friends of gays.

Nigerian groups documented 105 human rights violations against gays in the first 12 months after the bill's passage in January 2014, including assaults, mob attacks and blackmail.

In one case, a police officer pretending to be gay joined a group being counseled about AIDS, arrested 38 men there, tortured them into naming dozens of other allegedly gay men, sparking a witch hunt in the northeastern city of Bauchi.

Many gay people fled Bauchi. Other gays who can afford it have left Nigeria.

Eventually, a Shariah court sentenced five men to public whippings where bystanders demanded the death sentence.

Nobody has been tried under the anti-gay law, but it "has given people the right to exercise jungle justice," said Nigerian writer and professor Unoma Azuah, adding that gays "can't go anywhere to seek justice."


Related story: Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

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