Daily Trust (Abuja)

15 March 2013

Nigeria: Gay Rights - Commonwealth Laws Not Binding On Nigeria Senate

The Senate said Commonwealth of Nations laws are not binding on Nigeria.

The Senate said this yesterday while reacting to the recent signing by Queen Elizabeth of a new Commonwealth Charter that embraces universal human rights, including homosexuality, for all Commonwealth citizens.

Speaking to our correspondent on phone yesterday, the spokesman of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the Commonwealth could not make laws for Nigeria because it (Nigeria) is an independent country.

He said the Senate has, through a bill, made homosexuality illegal in Nigeria, and that no Commonwealth law or charter can change the Senate's position on the issue.

NAN reports that the Charter, which details 16 core beliefs, was adopted by all the member nations in December 2012.

The charter states "We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds."

There are reports that the queen is sticking up for queens everywhere by signing on the Commonwealth Charter, a document designed to "stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the 'empowerment' of women."

The document applies not just to the United Kingdom, but to the entire Commonwealth of Nations, which includes Australia, India, parts of Africa and many other countries.

Considering that homosexual acts are currently a capital offense in several parts of the Commonwealth, this treaty could be a historic step forward for gay rights.

But Abaribe said "I am not aware that the Commonwealth of Nations is making laws for Nigeria. Nigeria, as a Federal Republic, is an independent country. Our association with the Commonwealth of Nations is voluntary. The fact the Commonwealth of Nations makes any law or sign any charter does not necessarily mean that we must accept such, especially if such a law or charter is in conflict with our own law. Homosexuality has become an illegal practice in Nigeria and no Commonwealth law or charter can make us change this," he said.

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