Nigerian activists and the proposed new law

March 17, 2009

It is already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria and a proposed new law would give police rights to arrest gay people living together or anyone aiding and abeting them. Under the new law anyone who has "entered into a same gender marriage contract" would be liable to be jailed for three years.

Nigerian gay rights activist, Rashidi Williams, has gone before parliament to protest the new proposal.

This is his statement regarding the proposed Same Gender Prohibition Bill 2008

Honorable members of the House, The Clerk to the House Committee on Human Rights and the Distinguished Members of the National Assembly.

I am Rashidi Williams the Director Queer Alliance Nigeria. I am standing here before you on behalf of entire member of Queer Alliance. Queer Alliance is a group of young Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender citizens of Nigeria, we have been active at grassroots� level providing support for LGBT people, in educational, health and social matter, providing information on daily activities such as security, welfare and general well being for over two years.

I am here today on behalf of those we represent to present our concerns for the Same Gender Prohibition Bill 2008.

Same sex attraction is not a question of choice as we understand, otherwise it would make living and upholding the legalistic approaches in Nigeria difficult for us, and we are law abiding citizens and have not fallen into any problems with the laws. None of us will want to be discriminated against because of our sexuality that we have no control nor have we chosen. It is already a trial to survive the hardship of our nations let alone the discrimination we face as sexual minorities. We believe that we are created by God and do not wish to be discriminated against, we seek your help and appeal to you all to lay this bill aside.

This is a crucial time for our beloved nation, Nigeria, when we have to discuss a bill that adds to the destitution of an existing legislation against homosexuality popularly known as the �Sodomy law� this penal code was introduced by our colonial masters, we believe that our government should enforce conscience in the moral of its citizen forced to the margins of society on matters they are unable to defend.

We ask that the House of Representative and our law makers work with us to understand the concept of sexuality and sexual orientation through our experiences and not create laws that will punish us needlessly.

Our beloved country has committed herself to numerous Human Right treaties and convention under international laws of the United Nations and Human Rights Commission which expands on the understanding of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We believe that this House has the power to direct resources to research and look deeper in to the issues that affect us your children, in more ways than one, if this bill is passed you are not only going to criminalize us, you will also criminalize our parents who have raised us as honest and God fearing citizens of this nation.

We also believe that an investment in providing information that includes LGBT people will be a credit to national resources spent on more important issues affecting LGBT people across the nation.

The monopolization of sexuality has led so many people to believe that heterosexuality is the only valid sexuality, human sexualities are diverse and we appeal today to acknowledge these views for a fuller understanding of the work we are doing to provide guidance for many LGBT people in our society.

The bill seek to criminalize our ability to love and not hate, the bill will force many more in to secretive behaviors and extreme dishonesty likely to put themselves and others at risk, fueled by hatred and other form of stigma.

We are present in every age group and generations, we are present in every labour force and are keen tax payers and contributors to our great nation. These laws will make us criminals for what we have no control and often when these happens we are forced away from our hopes and destinies of what we truly believe, Unity and Love.

The LGBT communities are blamed for the expansion and increase of HIV, this is not the case, and those conclusions are based on insufficient evidence and mostly on ignorance. The fact also eliminates evidence that excludes LGBT people from sexual health services, if we are given the right tools then we are able to provide the right information for the people we serve.

This bill is filled with clear hallmarks of acrimony towards an indefensible group of people already marginalized by the society, if this bill is passed in to law the hatred and homophobia which already exist will be considered sponsored by our own government.

We believe that as we grow as a free nation, all citizens should enjoy that freedom, regardless of differences in their sex, gender, wealth, health, abilities, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We conclude our statement with our pledge to Nigeria our dearly beloved nation, to continue to be faithful, loyal and honest regardless of the seasons, peace nor tribulations, we shall serve Nigeria with all our strength and uphold the dignity and honour for all rightful citizens, Help us God.

Thanks for your attention.
Issued by Queer Alliance, Nigeria

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