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Rights group
calls on Nigeria to withdraw antigay legislation

Rights group
calls on Nigeria to withdraw antigay legislation

Legislation criminalizing homosexuality will hamper HIV outreach, officials say.

Human Rights Watch, a New York City-based human rights organization, is calling on Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw proposed legislation that would make gay relationships illegal in the country, partly because criminalizing homosexuality would hamper HIV prevention outreach, reports the South African Press Association. The legislation, proposed in January by the nation's minister of justice, would require prison sentences of up to five years for "anyone involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same-sex amorous relationship[s] directly or indirectly in public and in private." The bill also would make it illegal to participate in, assist with, or witness a gay union ceremony.

HRW, in a letter to Obasanjo, said the law, if passed, would fuel stigma against homosexuality and keep gay men from seeking HIV prevention information. The agency also wrote that the law would even heighten stigma against heterosexual HIV-positive people in the country, which could lead to an explosion in new AIDS cases.

"This draconian measure will only intensify prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation," Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights program at HRW, said in a statement. "The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms that should be enjoyed by all Nigerians."

The law is currently being considered by the nation's legislature, where Obasanjo's party has a large majority. (The Advocate)

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