United Nations human rights experts Friday condemned a proposed Nigerian law banning gay marriage and tightening laws criminalizing homosexuality in the country. While engaging in homosexual acts in Nigeria is already punishable by death by stoning, the UN experts said the new law, which authorizes a maximum five-year sentence for any person found to be openly gay, will make persons engaging in, or perceived to be engaging in, same sex relationships in Nigeria more susceptible to arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and ill-treatment and expose them even more to violence and attacks on their dignity.
They also said the law would violate Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifying that all human beings are “born equal in dignity and rights.” Friday's statement was jointly issued by Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Doudou Diène; Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Yakin Ertürk; and Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health Paul Hunt.
Some speculate that the Nigerian law, which could pass both the House and Senate by the end of March, is a response to a civil unions law enacted by South Africa last November. With that legislation, South Africa became the first African nation to recognize same-sex unions.