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Advocacy Groups Call for Withdrawal of Legislation Criminalizing Homosexual Relationships

Sixteen international advocacy groups called on Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw a bill that would criminalize homosexual relationships, saying the legislation is in violation of international law, and potentially harmful to anti-AIDS efforts. The proposed legislation would carry a sentence of up to five years in prison for any person who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sexÉ performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same-sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same-sex amorous relationship[s] directly or indirectly in public and in private,” according to the letter which was sent to the Nigerian President.

Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said, “This draconian measure will only intensify prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation,” adding, “The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms that should be enjoyed by all Nigerians.” In February, the US State Department also condemned this legislation as infringing on freedoms of speech, association and assembly based on sexual identity. Currently, the law awaits a vote by the legislature, where Obasanjo’s governing People’s Democratic Party has an overwhelming majority.

Sources:

Human Rights Watch, 3/23/06; Kaiser Network 3/27/06; Letter to Obasanjo, 3/23/06; SAPA/International Online 3/24/06

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