Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

Outcry against Nigeria's
'jail the gays' law

NEWS


oitwnews@gmail.com

Activists protested Nigeria's anti-gay bill in New York City in 2011.(Photo: Elixher.com)
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International LGBT and human rights organizations called upon Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan not to sign the harsh Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) bill into law.

The anti-gay bill was passed by both Nigeria's upper and lower houses of Parliament in May 2013. The Nigerian Senate passed the bill – originally proposed by Ojo Madukwe in 2006 – in 2011. Yet there were still elements of the legislation, nicknamed the "jail the gays" bill, which combined a couple of anti-gay bills into one, that weren't agreed upon until December 17.

Legislators passed the bill just before the Ugandan Parliament surprised the world with passage of its own harsh anti-gay bill December 20.

The actions in the two African countries followed the decision by India's Supreme Court last month to recriminalize homosexuality with its reinstatement of Section 377, a colonial-era anti-sodomy law.

The main difference between Nigeria's two anti-gay bills was the length of the prison sentences imposed, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

If signed into law by Jonathan, LGBT Nigerians could face up to 14 years in prison for participating in a same-sex marriage. Friends and family of LGBT Nigerians attending commitment ceremonies could face up to 10 years in prison. Anyone providing services to a gay person faces up to five years in prison. Any public display of same-sex affection is outlawed. LGBT social and political gatherings are banned.

Human rights leaders have called upon Jonathan and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the respective anti-gay bills into law. Activists have also called upon both Britain and the U.S. to halt financial assistance from both countries if the laws go into effect.

Leaders in both countries as well as many others have threatened to freeze funding if the bills were signed. Yet, unlike Uganda, which is dependent upon foreign aid, Nigeria is Africa's largest producer of oil; therefore it isn't as susceptible to pressure from Western nations, reported Agence France-Presse.

It is unclear what Jonathan will do.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with 174,507,539 people representing 250 ethnic groups. Half the country is Muslim, while 40 percent are Christian and 10 percent are of indigenous faiths, according to the CIA World Factbook.

"Nigerian politicians are once again scapegoating LGBT individuals in a manner that is likely to facilitate violence and abuse," Jessica Stern, executive director of IGLHRC, said in a recent statement. "This is not only an outrage, it is counter to Nigeria's human rights obligations and anathema to human decency."

Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International's Africa deputy director, agreed.

"This discriminatory bill, which not only criminalizes same-sex marriage but also makes public displays of affection and even socializing in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community illegal, must be rejected by the president," said van Kregten.

"If the president signs the bill into law it would make Nigeria one of the least tolerant societies in the world and have catastrophic consequences for the country's LGBTI community and human rights organizations," he added.

 

Transgender victory in the Netherlands

In a landmark move, the Dutch Senate last month voted 51-24 in favor of revising article 28 of the civil code to give transgender and intersex individuals more rights over making choices for their bodies.

The other parliamentary chamber already approved the law. It will now go to King Willem-Alexander to be countersigned. Once the king countersigns the bill into law it will go into effect July 1.

Under the new law transgender people aged 16 and older will be able to change the gender marker in government identity documents to their preferred gender. The law also did away with outdated hormone and surgery requirements, such as irreversible sterilization.

"This law is a victory for transgender [people] in the Netherlands," said a joint statement from the Transgender Network Netherlands and the country's oldest LGBT organization, COC-Netherlands. "There is an end to all the humiliating situations that transgender people still daily deal with because the sex designation on their paper is different from the gender in which they live."

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program of Human Rights Watch, praised the bill's passage.

"The new law is an important step toward equality for transgender people in the Netherlands," said Dittrich. "It puts people in a much stronger position to change their gender identity without intrusive and abusive medical requirements."

Dittrich noted that the law was a major step forward in transgender and intersex rights, but it also didn't go as far as Argentina's gender identity law.

Dittrich pointed out that Argentina's law, currently the most progressive on gender identity issues, doesn't require hormonal or surgical intervention or any third party involvement.

In five years the Dutch law will be re-examined and the opportunity will be available to do away with the requirement for expert opinions prior to hormonal and surgical procedures.

 

Indian government appeals to Supreme Court

Government officials have decided to appeal to the Supreme Court by filing a petition to review the constitutionality of the reinstatement of section 377 of India's penal code.

Last month two Supreme Court judges upheld the colonial-era anti-sodomy law, which was repealed by the Delhi High Court in 2009, and kicked it back to parliament.

Initially law minister Kapil Sibal suggested that parliament might pass a bill to repeal 377, as it is known, but a week following the court's decision, he announced that the ruling would be reviewed by five Supreme Court justices.

It is expected that the court will review the petition soon, reported ABC News.

"Let's hope the right to personal choices is preserved," Sibal said.

Until the court's decision is made in coming months, members of parliament won't consider legislative initiatives to decriminalize homosexuality in India again.

The court and government leaders' decision comes as the conservative Hindu national group Bharatiya Janata Party, which has spoken openly about its support of the Supreme Court's decision, is poised to take over the government in the spring general elections.

 

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or oitwnews@gmail.com.

 






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