By Melanie Nathan, September 17, 2014.
Courageous Nigerian human rights defenders and the Nigerian LGBT community, in Nigeria and exile, anxiously await the outcome of Justice Abdu Kafarati ‘s ruling in the claim filed against the Federal Government in the Abuja High Court from earlier this year. The ruling will be handed down on September 25th.
Joseph Teriah Ebah, a straight ally filed a claim against the Nigerian Govt on Constitutional grounds, stating that the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition ) Act 2014 a.k.a. Anti Gay Law is unconstitutional, as it failed to take into consideration the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian LGBT community.
“On Jan. 7 Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, enthusiastically signed into law the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, aka the “jail the gays” bill. Nigeria already had in place harsh laws against its LGBTQ population, but Jonathan’s recent edict tacitly encourages mobs who engage in what amounts to “queer cleansing” — the violent and systematic eradication of any expression of LGBTQ identities and culture.” (Huffington Post)
Elizabeth Funke Obisanya (Hrh), a Christian LGBT film maker, now based in the United Kingdom,(Producer of Magdas Lesbian Lover – MLL©), added a religious take to the civil argument – ” She notes: “We are told in Galatians 3:13 that Jesus paid the penalty price which was levied on the LGBT in Leviticus and Deuteronomy so why the persecutions? The law creates an environment of persecution and sufferings for the LGBT community…why isn’t the Church of Christ speaking up for the community ?””
Many have been thrown out of their homes, jobs, families, beaten up and humiliated in public- all backed up by the President and the Senators.
Nigerian activists are wondering whether at a time when most of the African nations have taken the anti gay stance would it be possible through this case for Nigeria to break away from the homophobia in the law and abide the Nigerian Constitution to allow equal rights for all Nigerians. Or would the Senators and President Goodluck Jonathan remain in violation of their respective oaths to Nigerians and the nation?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Nigeria face horrific legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. The country does not allow or recognize LGBT rights. There is no legal protection against discrimination in Nigeria -not unusual – but challenged for constitutionality Nigeria is a very conservative country of more than 170 million people,split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south. Very few LGBT persons are open about their orientation, and violence against LGBT people is frequent. This exacerbates the myth and lies that underpins the legislation.
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria. The maximum punishment in the twelve northern states that have adopted Shari’a law is death by stoning. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the Shari’a courts. In southern Nigeria and under the secular criminal laws of northern Nigeria, the maximum punishment for same-sex sexual activity is 14 years’ imprisonment. The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalizes all forms of same-sex unions and same-sex marriage throughout the country.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 percent of Nigerian residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept, which was the second-highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed.
Nigeria has been widely criticized by human and civil rights organizations, as well as the United Nations, for failing to uphold, and even violating, the rights of LGBT people.