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No Sanction Yet Against Nigeria Over Same Sex Marriage, UN Says

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The United Nations (UN) has said that  it would not impose any sanction yet on Nigeria over the recent enactment of anti same sex legislation.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillar said this yesterday, March 14, 2014 in Abuja  during a press conference to cap-up her four days working visit to Nigeria.

Pillar who said the UN would not  relent on its effort to persuade Nigeria to repeal the law, alleged that it was already having dangerous effects.

She noted that  the  groups of Nigeria’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community were living in fear, adding that  the new law known as the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition Act) goes far beyond prohibiting same sex marriage- which she said was illegal.

“The law violates international law in that it is discriminatory and seriously impinges on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and could lead to human rights defenders advocating for the rights of LGBT people receiving draconian prison sentences,” she said.

The UN Chief, while advocating for adequate protection of the rights of LGBT described the anti same sex marriage law as ‘draconian and illegal’.

“The law already appears to be having other dangerous side effects, even before it comes into force, with my office  receiving reports of widespread arrests of LGBT people in some states, some physical attacks, including by mobs, and other forms of harassment such as a rise in blackmail and extortion. It is for these reasons, among others, that this law has aroused such controversy on the international level,” she added.

Pillay while explaining the reason behind her visit said,  Nigeria as the largest population in Africa has huge potential of international focus.

“This is a very important country, with easily the largest population in Africa, big ambitions and huge potential. On the international level, Nigeria has been playing an increasingly significant role in the Human Rights Council in Geneva and is currently a member of the Security Council. It can, and I believe should, play an even more significant role on the international stage in the years to come, and its embrace of human rights will be a major element in deciding its future course both internally and internationally.”

She added that “There is also concern among medical specialists that it will have serious negative consequences for public health in Nigeria, by driving LGBT persons underground and deterring them from signing up for HIV educational programmes, prevention, treatment and care services. Given that Nigeria currently has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, this would be a heavy blow to the efforts to combat HIV.”

According to Pillay, the UN Secretary General had roundly condemned the same sex marriage Act because he believes that it contravenes international laws  and the African Union Charter which Nigeria signed to.

“Such international laws upholds equality and speaks of none discrimination. These are universal values that should be respected and adhered to even in the face of contrary cultural beliefs and practices some of which I enumerated earlier as harmful cultural practices.

“However, the UN will not take any action against this country except to continue to express its concern with regard to this arbitrary law which the international communities have condemned for various reasons”, she added.

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