The African Council of NGOs Action against AIDS (AfriCASO), the regional representative of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO) express profound outrage at the enactment of a law which jeopardizes the effectiveness of the HIV response in general and, in particular, work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in Nigeria.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has signed into force a law prohibiting marriage between consenting adults of the same sex. It provides a sentence of 14 years in prison for gay marriage and 10 years imprisonment against same sex people publicly displaying any relationship. It also criminalizes anyone involved in any activity related to homosexual groups, with a sentence of 10 years for any individual or group of people providing support to establishments or operations considered “homosexual".
These new provisions not only constitute a step backwards in the fight against HIV but also threaten the protection and promotion of human rights in Nigeria. Moreover, they tarnish the Nigerian government’s goodwill to end new HIV infections and, among other measures, to eliminate legal barriers and social practices which limit access to services for all vulnerable people, in accordance with their commitments under the 2013 African Union Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Nigeria is a major influencer in the West Africa region. The country has a general HIV prevalence rate of 3.1% (UNAIDS 2012) with 3.4 million people living with HIV. HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is estimated at 17% and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community account for more than 10% of new HIV infections. The new law will further increase their vulnerability to HIV infection and threatens their right to health alongside their rights to respect for private life, liberty and personal safety. According to one activist from the LGBT community in Lagos, the new law is seen as supporting the “legalization of violence, stigma and discrimination.”
Faced with the deteriorating situation, AfriCASO, the Africa Office of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, AMSHeR, RADDHO and others call on all partners to explore all legal and political means necessary to persuade Nigeria to repeal this law:
“Our urgent concern is the protection and care of thousands of people who are currently arbitrarily arrested, detained or in hiding because of their presumed or proven sexual orientation. Therefore, we call on the international community and Africa in particular to mobilize support for the protection of human rights of groups most at risk, and to provide legal and judicial assistance to those in need in Nigeria.”