Anti-Gay Law: Amnesty International calls on President Jonathan to scrap law

Amnesty International, the global voice for human rights defence has asked the Nigerian government Wednesday to release about a dozen people arrested under the new law President Goodluck Jonathan signed in Abuja Monday, criminalizing same-sex relationships.

Amnesty International described the law as homophobic and “deeply oppressive … that runs roughshod over a range of human rights and discriminates based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Mr. Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher, said in a release from London that “The arrests have been made in several Nigerian states such as Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Oyo states since Monday, when it was revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan had signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law” demanding that “those arrested under this draconian new legislation must be released immediately and the charges against them dropped.”

He argued that “locking someone up for their sexual orientation violates the most basic human rights standards,” and expressed worry that the police in one state are “apparently drawing up lists of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to target.”

Mr. Kamara said President Goodluck Jonathan has turned Nigeria into one of the world’s least tolerant societies “with the stroke of a pen.”

According to Amnesty International, that police in northern Bauchi state have drawn up a list of 167 people targeted for arrest based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and quoting an Assistant Commissioner of Police, as saying “The police have a list of suspected gay people under surveillance. We use the list to conduct our surveillance but the names on the list are not up to 167. We also use it to find out who their victims are.”

The organization expressed worry that the “law is a throwback to the worst of the military rule-era when a range of human rights were treated with contempt.” It also said in society where corruption is rampant, “this law could also be used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people by law enforcement officers and other members of the public, since the law provides for a ten year prison sentence for anyone who supports, meets with, or forms a group advocating for human rights for LGBTI people.”