Universal Access VS The Nigerian Same Sex Prohibition Act

by Bryan Teixeira – Europe NGO Delegate

The PCB NGO Delegation expressed concern and condemnation for the recent Nigerian Same Sex [Prohibition] Act 2014. The Delegation urged the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) along with its Co-Sponsors – UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank – as well as Member States and multilateral and bilateral donors, to take meaningful action.

The Delegation wholeheartedly supported the joint statement of January 14th 2014 by UNAIDS and the Global Fund on this subject. The statement noted: “The new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of HIV infection, undermining the success of the Presidential Comprehensive Response Plan for HIV/AIDS which was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan less than a year ago. “

Nigeria is one of the largest recipients of Global Fund grants and is expected to be preparing a submission under the Global Fund’s New Funding Model in the next six months. Nigeria also has the second largest HIV epidemic globally: in 2012, there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. In 2010, national HIV prevalence in Nigeria was estimated at 4% among the general population and 17% among men who have sex with men.

The NGO Delegation noted that this new law not only breaches all conventions on Human Rights, but is also in conflict with the Political Declaration from the 2011 High Level Meeting to which Nigeria was a signatory. In addition to impeding the response to HIV in the MSM community,this law has wider consequences for all Nigerians. Effectively addressing HIV in MSM in the African context will save a huge number of new infections in the general population. The law therefore has consequences that will undermine the government’s overall HIV response.

Two immediate priority areas have been identified for action. The first priority is to act to provide safety and protection for the communities targeted by this Law, including MSM and their family members, and those incarcerated as a result of this law. Mainstream as well as social media report stories of arrests, and MSM and their families being attacked or else fearing arrest and therefore going into hiding, effectively becoming displaced persons.

The second priority is a united advocacy coalition to get this law repealed. The joint UNAIDS and the Global Fund statement urges “all governments to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect them from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring that adequate health services are provided to address their needs.”The Delegation strongly supports this call.

Member States cannot remain silent on this issue. There is an urgent humanitarian need for them to create a solid coalition to persuade the Nigerian Government that repealing this law as a matter of urgency is in the interests of everyone. Member States can work with Civil Society in their own countries and as well as in consultation with Nigerian Civil Society in determining appropriate actions.

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