Saturday, April 08, 2006

More rights organizations come out against Nigerian bill

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have added their voices to the call for Nigerian President Obasanjo to withdraw legislation that would put homosexuals living in Nigeria in serious physical and civil jeopardy. The letter of OMCT and FIDH provides far more specific objections to the legislation (pdf) than can be found in the earlier letter cosigned by Human Rights Watch and 15 other human rights organizations.

... in its article 7 (1), the Bill prohibits the "registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations by whatever name they are called [...] by government agencies".

Furthermore, the Bill provides in its article 7(3) five years imprisonment for "any person involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private". It also provides the same sentence to anyone who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex, and "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage" (article 8).

[OMCT and FIDH recall] that chapter 42, section 214 of Nigeria?s Criminal code already penalises consensual homosexual conduct between adults with fourteen years imprisonment.

The bill, if adopted, would blatantly violate the principle of non-discrimination, enshrined in all main international human rights instruments, and a corner stone of human rights law. It would also clearly restrict freedoms of expression and association of human rights defenders and members of civil society, when advocating the rights of gays and lesbians. This Bill would also potentially criminalise civil society groups engaged in fighting against HIV/AIDS through prevention programme.

Conservatives like to make this a debate about gay marriage and the post-modern defense of local traditional values -- liberals prefer to make this a debate about universal civil rights.

My suggestion is that we leave the "gay marriage" aspects of the bill aside for now. Instead, we should focus on what message is sent by conservative Anglicans in their endorsement of the bill. Do they know what they are endorsing? They better be sure.

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