A number of groups had attended to oppose the bill, which criminalized “homosexual touch,” punished R#8220;promotion of homosexuality,” criminalized renting housing to gay people. I was there with the Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, discussing public health implications of HIV prevention and care, citing research from Uganda. Earlier, the Uganda Human Rights Commission had offered objections to the bill. Colleagues weighed in on legal grounds, and UNAIDS Country Representative, Mr. Musa Bungudu, reminded everyone of Uganda’s huge HIV burden.
In reaction to the recent passing of anti-gay legislation in Nigeria the Anova Health Institute expresses alarm and trepidation at the resultant human rights consequences ensuing from such actions. Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute NPC, is gravely concerned by developments in Nigeria regarding the wide-spread impact on the progress made in the fight against HIV in those countries and elsewhere in Africa.
The Act, which was adopted by the Nigerian Senate in 2011 and passed by the lower house of parliament in 2013, was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this month. The new legislation bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and displays of same-sex public affection. In effect it criminalises same-sex love and sexual expression.
Glenn de Swardt, Programme Manager of Health4Men, says prejudice against sexual minority groups is dangerous as it jeopardises the sexual and mental health of such individuals. “Besides the human rights violations, prejudice and criminalisation undoes decades of sexual health advocacy and education regarding men who have sex with men (MSM). While MSM are a key population in terms of vulnerability to HIV, such men will be less likely to access appropriate health care. Simultaneously, prejudice by healthcare workers is now legitimised.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Anova, Prof James McIntyre, comments: “No legislation will curb human sexuality. Male to male sex will obviously continue but is likely to become more clandestine. MSM will be less likely to access appropriate MSM-targeted prevention messaging and essential combination prevention. The implications for HIV transmission under such circumstances is rather dire.”
Health4Men calls for the following actions:
· The South African government needs to be very outspoken in terms of promoting a human rights-based approach to minority sexual groups throughout Africa by condemning developments primarily in Nigeria.
· South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population should hold political parties accountable for how they propose to protect and promote human rights both locally and internationally, especially during the current election year.
· LGBT advocacy organisations and networks in South Africa should develop an informed and coordinated response to the volatile situation unfolding north of our borders.
Nigeria is one of 38 African countries that have adopted anti-gay legislation. A cancer of prejudice is eroding human rights, dignity and equality in Africa; this calls for all reasonable African voices to make themselves heard.
Tanya Bencun, Communications Manager – Anova Health Institute NPC
Tel. +27 11 581 5038 / Mobile +27 82 410 8692