Saturday, August 5, 2006

Taking It Global: Support Human Rights for LGBT People in Nigeria

Dear Christian congregations, institutions, and members of the clergy,

We are writing to request your urgent assistance.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is contemplating the passage of a bill
that would criminalize all forms of homosexuality. If the Same Sex Marriage
(Prohibition) Act 2006 were to pass, anyone engaged in private, consensual
behavior, involved with a lesbian or gay organization, who attended a
lesbian or gay public event, or who blessed a lesbian or gay union could be
held criminally liable and sentenced to a 5-year prison term. We believe
that this bill is immoral, inhumane, and would be in violation of the
basic Christian values of human dignity and fairness.

Because the Christian churches of Nigeria have been some of the primary
forces behind this legislation, we are mobilizing a US-based progressive
Christian response. Human rights organizations in Nigeria, Africa and
around the world have already sent letters of protest (see for instance
<> ).

With this effort, we raise our voices to proclaim that the persecution of
lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender people is not a Christian value.
We are asking U.S. Christian leaders to sign a public letter of protest
to the Nigerian government condemning this immoral legislation. To add
your name to this letter - which you'll find pasted below and attached -
please email <>
with the name of your congregation, the name of your organization, or your
own name as an individual religious leader (complete with your title and
congregation or organization name for affiliation purposes only). The
Nigerian House of Representatives may consider the bill as early as next
week, so a quick response from you is urgently needed. Please sign the
letter by the end of the day Tuesday, August 8.

For more information, please contact David Lohman at the Institute for
Welcoming Resources at or (612) 821-4397.
By proclaiming the true meaning of Christian values, we can prevent the
persecution of lesbians and gays carried out in our name.


Reverend Rebecca Voelkel
Institute for Welcoming Resources

Reverend Susan Russell


August 9, 2006

Aminu Bello Masari
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Federal Republic of Nigeria

Dear Honorable Speaker,

It has been called to our attention that a bill now before the National
Assembly would strip a section of the Nigerian people of their basic
human rights. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006 goes far beyond
banning equality in civil marriage. It is an assault on everyone's
basic freedoms. As leaders of faith communities, we believe that respecting
the dignity of every human being is a core spiritual value. We urge you as
civic leaders to respect human dignity by rejecting this bill.

The bill says that the law will provide five years imprisonment to
anyone who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same
sex," helps or supports a same sex marriage, or "is involved in the
registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or
meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship
directly or indirectly in public and in private." It will also prohibit
adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals. Arresting
people for these acts challenges fundamental freedoms under the Nigerian
Constitution and international human rights law and standards, including the
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

This proposed legislation also hurts Nigeria in its struggle to stop the
spread of HIV/AIDS. This bill would drive part of the population deeper
into invisibility and silence-cutting them off from any sort of education
concerning how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights affirms the equality
of all people. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
which Nigeria acceded to in 1993, protects the rights to freedom of
expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders says that "everyone has
the right, individually and in association with others, at the national
and international levels: a) to meet or assemble peacefully; b) to form,
join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or

Most importantly, this bill would strike at the equality, dignity and
respect due all people in Nigeria. As faith leaders we are committed to
building bridges of understanding across divides of difference. We
believe all people of faith are called to work together for a world of justice,
peace and equality. We urge you to resist the polarizing rhetoric of
some narrow, religious ideologues and instead affirm the fundamental values
of freedom reflected in the Nigerian Constitution.

We are asking that you oppose this bill and protect the equality of all
Nigerians. Your assistance is necessary in order to overcome the
discrimination that takes place in the world today. We are depending
on you to do all you can to prevent this bill from being passed and to take a
stand for the basic human rights of all people.



Christian Association of Nigeria
Members of the relevant committees of the House of Representatives to
be added.

Jessica Stern
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299
T: (212) 216 - 1867
F: (212) 736 - 1300

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