Next Wednesday, March 11th, in Abuja, Nigeria, the National House of Assembly will hold a public hearing on the simply named “Same Gender Marriage Bill.” The intent of this law is to criminalize marriage between consenting adults of the same sex. The passage of this law, a narrower version of the law that failed to pass at the Federal level 2 years ago, would serve no purpose other than to grant state legitimacy to discrimination and stigma against an already persecuted group. Frankly, the state doesn’t need the help.
Less than a month ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the unmitigated gall to stand in front of the world at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and tell us that there are no organized gay groups in Nigeria, and that an unorganized constituency has no rights. The Honourable Minister’s snide tone and denial of the very existence of homosexuality or any kind of gender or sexual diversity in Nigeria betrays a disturbing lack of respect for basic human rights and dignity. While he denies the existence of LGBTQQI persons and sarcastically thanks the British colonizer for leaving us with the outdated and exclusionary anti-sodomy law, our own House is looking to add to the burden already borne by same-sex loving couples.
We call upon the Nigerian government to stop the persecution of our LGBTQQI citizens by the state, the media, and the society. For a country where the Honourable Minister couldn’t find “the gay,” we have seen far too many rights abuses and acts of hatred against our fellow Nigerians. We call upon those Nigerians who seek to defend human rights to be inclusive in their advocacy and join us in solidarity at the public hearing. It is time we told our government to stop persecuting others and distracting us from the critical work needed to make Nigeria stable, equal and free.
*LQBTQQI = lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex
Dorothy Aken’Ova works with the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE) in Nigeria.