Nigeria should repeal law targeting LGBT rights and defenders


Nigeria should repeal a draconian law which violates international law and targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and human rights defenders.

(Geneva) - A draconian law signed into force by the Nigerian President violates international law, will have wide-ranging and damaging impacts on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and must be repealed, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

It has been reported that the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the 'Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill' into force in recent days. The law makes it a criminal offense to enter into same-sex relationships or to lobby, advocate for, or support LGBT rights.

‘International human rights law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also protects the rights to freedom of association and expression. This law is manifestly incompatible with international human rights standards and must be repealed’, said Dr Heather Collister of ISHR.

The law's broad provisions criminalise same-sex relationships (punishable by a 14 year prison term) and those who ‘witness or abet’ a same-sex union.

The law has previously been condemned by Nigerian human rights defenders, who said in a statement that the law will lead to an ‘increased rate of harassment, witch-hunts and vindictive accusations which will impact on every Nigerian’.

‘Laws such as this serve to stigmatise same-sex relations and increase the incidence of homophobic violence and harassment,’ said Dr Collister. 

A recent report released by the Coalition of African Lesbians and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights documented numerous cases of physical violence against LGBT persons and human rights defenders across Africa, including arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, extortion and even killings.

The far-reaching law explicitly targets human rights defenders and non-government organisations who lobby, advocate for or support LGBT rights. Under its provisions, anyone who ‘registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations’, or who ‘support’ LGBT groups, processions or meetings, is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The law also contains a provision which makes it a criminal offence to advocate or lobby against the law itself.

‘The bill is manifestly incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, all of which are fundamental pillars of a safe, secure and democratic society,’ said Dr Collister.

‘In addition to targeting same-sex relations, the law targets the work of human rights defenders, effectively criminalising their work.'

‘Human rights defenders play a crucial role in social and economoc development and in upholding human rights and the rule of law. Attempts to silence their voice are attacks on the very foundations of a democratic and inclusive society,' Dr Collister said.

ISHR joins Nigerian human rights defenders and others in calling for the law to be repealed without delay 

Contact: Dr Heather Collister on or +41 799 20 38 05