Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Gay Law - We're Not Imposing Our Culture On Nigeria, Says EU

European Union Managing Director for Africa, Dr. Nicholas Westcott, has said the EU's stand on same sex marriage was not meant to impose any European morality or culture on Nigeria.

He, however, expressed concern over the same sex marriage prohibition Act recently signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, stressing that the law contradicted the 1999 Constitution, hence his concern about the rights of all Nigerians, irrespective of sexual orientation.

This came as British government expressed disappointment that the Nigerian same sex marriage Bill had received Presidential assent.

Westcott, who has been in the country since Monday during a press briefing at the European Union Mission in Abuja, said: "Just in the last few days, the same sex marriage prohibition Act which has been signed into law, which provides some concerns to us, we trying to explain to you clearly what our concerns are so that our position can be understood, just as we want to understand Nigeria's position on it.

European morality and Nigeria

"We are not telling Nigeria what kind of legislation it should have, that is for Nigerian people. We are not advocating that homosexuality or same sex marriage should be recognised. We are not trying to impose our morality or our culture; Nigeria has its culture, Nigeria has its approach of doing things and there should be mutual respect.

"We are concerned about the human rights and freedoms of all Nigerians as enshrined in Nigeria's own constitution and as enshrined in international conventions to which Nigeria is a party.

And our concern is that this Act contravenes some of those provisions and puts at risk some of the fundamental freedoms that all Nigerian people should enjoy - the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, etc. That is our concern.

Minorities

"But I think all minorities will be concerned about that, not just gay community, but all minorities, to respect their freedom guaranteed by international convention, by Nigeria's constitution. It will be for Nigeria to respond to this concerns but I have to express them.

"It was a concern shared by all and I represented my boss. Catherine Aston has expressed concern in a statement already with you today. So we believe that care needs to be taken to preserve some freedoms of all minorities in Nigeria. They should be protected as provided in the constitution."

In the same vein, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, Catherine Ashton, in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said the law was at variance with international agreements to which Nigeria is a party.

"I am concerned about the signing into law in Nigeria of the same sex Marraige Prohibition Act. The European Union is opposed to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

"It is firmly committed to human rights and rule of law in respect of those rights, including freedom of association, conscience and speech and equality of persons. It supports the respect of human rights in all countries of the world.

Contradiction with fundamental rights

"I am, therefore, particularly concerned that some provisions of the Act appear to be in contradiction with those fundamental rights, which are themselves guaranteed by Nigeria's 1999 Constitution, and to be inconsistent with the legal obligations enshrined in a number of international agreements to which Nigeria is a party," Ashton said.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary has expressed disappointment over President Goodluck Jonathan's assent to the same sex marriage Bill.

Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jeremy Wright, said: " The UK is a close friend of Nigeria, but we are disappointed that President Jonathan has given his assent to a Bill which will further criminalise same sex relationships in Nigeria. The UK opposes any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"The Bill also directly infringes on fundamental rights of expression and association, which are guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and by Nigeria's international treaty obligations."

"We are concerned by the prospect this raises of further action against an already marginalised section of society."

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