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Call for the repealing of Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013

12.01am, 7th March 2014, Nigeria: The New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS) calls for the repealing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013. NHVMAS notes that this act has caused escalation of human right abuses and violence for men who have sex with men (MSM) in many communities in Nigeria. It has led to individuals taking laws into their hands and unleashing terror on others who they assume or know to be homosexuals. An example is the attack on 14 men in Abuja in February. There had been other reports of attack in Portharcourt and Nassarawa following the Act. At least 10 detentions in four of Nigeria’s 36 states have been recorded.
NHVMAS notes with sadness that since the signing of the bill into law by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan, individuals and organisations working with the LGBTI community have felt a sense of loss: particularly regarding n the gains made in recent years in addressing the HIV epidemic concentrated within this  community. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria already contains clauses that prohibit same sex relationships. The Same Sex Prohibition Marriage Act further aggravates the anti-human right stance of the clause in the constitution.
The HIV response and the public health good of working with MSM have only started to gain momentum in recent years. The national HIV prevalence of 17.2% within the MSM community based makes provision of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services to the community a top priority: MSM have heightened risk of HIV infection and are a critical population for HIV interventions.
Criminalising MSM and those that association with MSM simply as contained in the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act implies that ongoing work within the community which focuses on ensuring access to prevention and treatment services would ground to a halt: uptake would be poor even when services are provided, and less NGOs/CBOs would likely be working with the community in view of the provision of the Act.  Health-care workers are not assured of protection to treat homosexual patients in confidence and will have to deal with actual or perceived duress to report members of the homosexual community to authorities. The Act holds implications not only for the HIV/AIDS community, but the medical community as a whole. ‘They threaten both the trust placed in health-care professionals and their efforts to achieve universal health coverage’ writes Aston Bernett-Vanes in his Lancet publication.
Beyond the public health good, the Act also infringes on the rights of members of the LGBTI community. It contravenes the provision of the 1999 Constitutions that upholds the rights of all its Nigerians. It also contravenes the various treaties that promotes the peace and security of lives and properties of Nigerians to which the country is a signatory.
NHVMAS hereby calls on:
1.    1. The Nigeria Bar Association and the Human Rights Commission to review the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and advice the President on its implication as per the infringement on the rights of men and women in Nigeria.
2.    2. The Nigeria Medical Association of Nigeria to review the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and advice the President on its public health implication.
3   3. The media to create spaces for public dialogue on the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and its implications on the rights of citizens in the country.
4.     4. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to repeal the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and uphold the Spirit of the Country’s 1999 Constitution.