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UN Concerned By Nigeria’s Anti-Homosexuality Law, Calls For Review

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2014 (IPS) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a new law in Nigeria that further criminalises same-sex unions to be reviewed, saying its wide range of offences is in breach of fundamental human rights.

Everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination, Ban said in a statement released Wednesday, warning that the law may fuel prejudice and violence.

The new legislation, signed by President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this month, includes a provision for a 14-year prison term for those who enter into a same sex union, and a ten-year prison term for anyone who supports or witnesses such unions.

“The U.N. stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter,” Ban added.

The global organisation has been appealing for the complete and universal decriminalisation of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in more than 70 countries as of December.

Ban’s latest concerns echoed those expressed Tuesday by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who described the anti-homosexuality law as “draconian.”

“Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights,” Pillay said in a statement issued by her office, OHCHR.

“Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention: this law undermines all of them,” she said.

Pillay said even before, consensual same-sex relationship had been criminalised in Nigeria, but the new law made “an already-bad situation much worse” for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people.

“It turns anyone who takes part in, witnesses or helps organise a same sex marriage into a criminal. It punishes people for displaying any affection in public towards someone of the same sex,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, the Joint U. N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the U. N. backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said that the new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of infection.

“The provisions of the law could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. It could also be used against organisations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people,” UNAIDS said in a statement, also released Tuesday.

Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally, with an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in 2012, UNAIDS data showed.

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