Monday, December 10, 2012

International Human Rights Day 2012: Inclusion and Participation

For Immediate Press Release
10th December 2012,
Statement on the International Human Rights Day

The year I948 saw the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the United Nations, just immediately after the end of the World War II. Since 1950, the International Human Rights Day has been marked to show solidarity for the human rights of all persons.

Fifty-two years after independence and a decade, three years after the return to democracy, Nigeria as a country is yet to come to the realization of the potentials of what human rights respect and recognition can do in moving forward our development agenda. Human Rights they say are inalienable rights that are entitled to every human being irrespective of sex, gender, race, religion, tribe and other status.

Since 2006, there have been propositions from the corridors of power to criminalize the identities and behaviour of a small section of the population. Queer Alliance uses this day to call the attention of all Nigerians to human rights issues, especially those which are deemed controversial and with push for penalization and criminalization from religious quarters on issues do not conform to hetero-normativity. We, therefore as an organization stand in the gap for those that we represent and serve, to call for the respect and recognition or rights in the context of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nigeria is signatory to various international covenants and treaties that protect from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Notable amongst these treaties are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women, Covenant against Torture, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. With the exception of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, every other covenant signed and ratified by the government of Nigeria in accordance with international jurisprudence protects from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Just recently, the United Nations also voted to give protection on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity in matters of extra-judicial killings.

Chapter IV of our constitution provides for the basic human rights of all Nigerians. Some of these are the rights to the dignity of the human person, health, security, privacy. It also enshrines the right from discrimination on the grounds of sex. As a member of the international community, sex has been interpreted in international law to be inclusive of sexual orientation. This is evident in the case of Tonen vs. Australia. It may not be explicitly stated in our constitution but in accordance with international laws and treaties which our country had ratified, it would mean that our constitution indirectly protects from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

As a secular country with a democratic system of governance, Queer Alliance reminds government that religious intonation into proposed legislations and rights issues is a sure sign of derail from the guiding principles of democracy. A denial of rights to any one group is a denial of rights to the majority. As the taunted giant of Africa, we must move to rightfully claim that national identity as the giant of Africa and a country to be reckoned with when it comes to promoting and protecting the rights of the ordinary man on the streets. This means that there must be no separation or distinction as to which rights must be protected under the laws of our nations. Only criminal behaviour and identities that seeks to or inflict harm on others, deny any person or group of persons their fundamental human rights need be made illegal and criminal. The case is not so for persons who continue to suffer stigma, discrimination and violence on the grounds of the sexual orientation and gender identity; which in no way inflict harm on anyone neither deny rights to any person or group of persons.

There is far no time for now for participatory democracy and an all-inclusive society devoid of discrimination than now. Sexual minorities’ need be supported to contribute their quota to national development. This we have done even with existing legislation that criminalizes us. Our community abounds with skills and talent, if which recognized can stimulate growth in some, if not all sectors of the nation’s economy for the benefit of all Nigerians. 

We call on all citizens of this country, home and abroad to call on the government to be accountable for the human rights of everyone that lives on the Nigerian soil. The respect and recognition of the rights of everyone is at the sole of the development that we all yearn for as individuals and as a nation. For instance we all need to call on the government to pay attention to the right to health by improving healthcare delivery throughout the country. Call on the government to pay attention to the spate of the bad roads in our country as part of our right to safety and movement. The list is inexhaustible.

Queer Alliance therefore uses today, the International Day on Human Rights to call the attention of the government, legislators and policy makers and civil societies organizations to shun the proposed bill to criminalize sexual minorities of this country on the notion of Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. There are no evidence of gay marriages in this country, thus the need to criminalize sexual minorities is unwarranted. It is not the needed change that the Nigerian masses want to see.

As sexual minorities our vision for this country is not of a homosexual agenda but a country free of corruption and bad leadership. A country where the very poor can access healthcare without impediments; a country with good road network; a country where premium is placed on education, a country where unemployment is brought to the barest minimum, a country where violence is criminalized in all its form, regardless of who the victim of the violence is; a country safe and secure for all citizens no matter their religion, belief or faith. We want to see a country where everyone can get involved in the building of the nation in a supportive, creative, dynamic and encouraging atmosphere. This we believe starts with the respect and recognition of the fundamental human rights of citizens.

Long Live Human Rights.

In solidarity,
Peace and Progress, Unity and Faith for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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