15 January 2014

Nigeria: Ban Voices Concern As New Anti-Homosexuality Law Takes Effect

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spoke out about a new anti-homosexuality law in Nigeria, saying he feared it may fuel prejudice and violence, as he voiced the strong hope that the constitutionality of the legislation can be reviewed.

The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, signed into law earlier this month, introduces a wide range of offences, including 14-year jail terms for same-sex couples who live together or attempt to solemnize their union with a ceremony.

The law has already drawn strong opposition from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for violating a wide range of human rights and for jeopardizing effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.

"The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination," the spokesperson stated, adding that Mr. Ban strongly hopes that the constitutionality of the law can be reviewed.

"The United Nations stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter."

Mr. Ban has repeatedly appealed for the complete and universal decriminalization of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in some 76 countries, and called on countries to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from violence and discrimination.

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