Briefing on the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013

This briefing note, prepared by the Human Dignity Trust, examines how Nigeria's Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act contravenes the Constitution of Nigeria, international obligations and acts to hinder the effectiveness of measures to contain the HIV epidemic.

On 7 January 2014, Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck signed his assent to the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 (SSMPA). Several elements of this legislation contravene Nigeria’s Constitution as well as its binding international obligations, which guarantee fundamental rights to dignity, equality, non-discrimination, privacy, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and freedom of expression and association.

Pre-existing law in Nigeria criminalises same-sex sexual activity in private and has been recognised as seriously impeding public health outcomes, in particular the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. Such laws hinder the effectiveness of strategies and measures designed to contain the HIV epidemic.

In this briefing note, the Human Dignity Trust outlines prohibited conduct under the SSMPA and the penalties for engaging in this conduct. This includes 14 years imprisonment for ‘Entering into a same sex marriage contract or civil union.’ The briefing note highlights the implications of the SSMPA including the chilling effect on civil society supporting LGBT rights, particularly those providing healthcare services against HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Finally, the note records the reactions of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAIDS to the new criminalising law.

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