Posted by Melanie Nathan, December 08, 2014.
To acknowledge this year’s world Human Rights Day on December 10th, a group of Nigerian human rights defenders have united for a #FreeAndEqualNaija media drive aimed at giving prominence to the protection of the rights of all Nigerians including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
Across the country this year, thousands of Nigerians have been victims of a wide range of human rights violations. Among them many have experienced violence, due to perceived or real difference in their sexual orientation or gender identity. Recorded violations included mob justice, arrests, sexual assaults, unlawful detention, eviction from homes, discrimination in health care and education settings, blackmail, extortion,
public humiliation and even killings.
In most cases, access to justice for victims was often impossible, and compounded by negative media reporting and lack of assistance from public authorities. Through the #FreeAndEqualNaija campaign, human rights defenders aim to create more awareness of the need to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the broader spectrum of human rights advocacy in Nigeria.
The harm caused by gender-based violence (as highlighted in Nigeria last month) and barriers in accessing justice for victims of sexual assault is particularly crucial for sexual minorities. And like millions of their Nigerian counterparts, poverty, youth unemployment, HIV/AIDS and exclusion from public education further compound the plight of sexual minorities. Campaigners therefore wish to forge more partnerships with the mainstream human rights movement, as well as religious and opinion leaders.
This year, two new resolutions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) called on member states to combat violence and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The ACPHR has also expressed concern for the welfare of Nigerian human rights defenders following the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013.
#FreeandEqualNaija campaigners appeal to Nigerian authorities to update its legal and policy apparatus regarding LGBTI individuals, to be in line with standards recommended by the ACPHR and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
According to Jake Okechukwu Effoduh , a campaign member, “Much work is needed to highlight the negative impact of deeply held prejudices towards minorities, who are victimized simply because of who they are or who they love. This sad situation should concern all of us”.
#FreeandEqualNaija campaigners are inviting members of the public to join the human rights movement on December 10, and show their support for a more tolerant Nigeria. According to Cheikh Traore, another campaign member: “The public can help raise awareness through social media and conventional media with stories which reflect the harmful impact of prejudice on families and ordinary people’s lives.”
The public is invited to share their experience relating to the harmful impact of prejudice towards sexual minorities. The public is also encouraged to use Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to promote the freedom and equality of all Nigerians. Tweet with the hashtag #FreeAndEqualNaija as well as follow @FreeEqualNaija on twitter to share stories relating to the hurtful impact of discrimination towards sexual minorities.
According to Dorothy Aken’Ova, also a campaign member: “All forms of violence experienced in Nigeria are interlinked. We will eliminate all forms of violence when we have the political commitment to protect the human rights of ALL”.
Cheikh Traore, Dorothy Aken’Ova, Joseph Sewedo Akoro, Akudo Oguaghamba, Unoma Azuah, Olusegun Odumosu, Kenny Brandmuse, Dolapo Ogunwale, Olumide Makanjuola, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Mike Ighodaro, Adejoke Tugbiyele and Jake Okechukwu Effoduh
Health and Dignity Concepts / Initiative for Improved Male Health /Centre for Integration and Courageous Living / Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative / RED WINE / International for Advocacy and the Right to Health / TIER / Association for Behavioural Change / House of Rainbow, Nigeria.