Citing a recent judgment delivered by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the Refugee Appeals Board in Malta has granted asylum to an 18-year-old Nigerian man, who had faced anti-gay persecution in his home country.
According to the judgment of the ECJ, asylum can be granted for people who face legal punishment for being gay in their home states. While ECJ rulings apply to all members of the European Union, it is up to national authorities to determine “whether, in the applicant’s country of origin, the term of imprisonment… is applied in practice.”
While the 18-year-old Nigerian was initially turned down by the office of the Commissioner for Refugees in April, the Board of Appeals in Malta found that in Nigerian states that apply sharia law, which is a legal system based on Islam’s moral code, consensual gay sex is punishable by death by stoning or flogging.
The finding makes it possible for gay Nigerians to receive asylum as a “particular social group,” since they are singled out in Nigerian law for punishment if they do not deny their sexuality.
In May 2013, Nigeria passed a law making it illegal for homosexual couples to marry or cohabit, an offense punishable by fourteen years in prison for not only the gay couple in question, but also anyone “witnessing” or “abetting” such relationships.
The anti-gay legislation was criticized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who cited Nigeria’s lack of responsibility as a member in several international human rights treaties on non-discrimination.
“Nigeria has signed many treaties; Nigeria has to report how it’s implementing and delivering on its obligations,” she said in a BBC World News program back in June.
“I am very concerned that the rights of LGBT people…their sexual orientation rights are being violated; that they are being subjected to discrimination and I condemn this law of Nigeria because it violates the Equality Clause both of Nigerian law as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which speaks of equality for all.”