The group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has written to the Nigerian government urging them to reconsider their new law, which criminalizes same-sex marriage and public same-sex romance or other such acts.
The legislation, which was first drafted in 2009, was signed into law by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in early 2014.
It also bans people from registering or participating in gay clubs, societies or organizations, and entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union can result in up to fourteen years in jail.
According to Zimeye, the letter, written by GALZ director Chesterfield Samba and addressed to the ambassador of Nigeria to Zimbabwe, said “As an association protecting, representing and promoting the rights and interests of lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender men and women and Intersex persons (LGBTI) in Zimbabwe, [we]are extremely concerned by the recent signing into law of the same sex prohibition bill which we have reason to believe that it will go a long way towards attenuating the extremely difficult situation in which LGBTI Nigerians find themselves in. We are concerned that these fundamental rights which are regarded as inalienable and inherent are being determined by majority opinion without consideration to the negative and severe impact it has on the lives of LGBTI Nigerians and their families.”
The letter also expressed their fear for the safety of the Nigerian LGBT community.
The law has already resulted in a witch-hunt across the country, with over thirty arrests since the law was passed through parliament.
According to a study in 2013, the Pew Research Center found that African and Muslim countries were the least tolerant of homosexuality; of the thirty-nine countries surveyed, Nigeria was deemed the most intolerant, with at least 98 percent of respondents claiming homosexuality was unacceptable.
The state of LGBT rights in Zimbabwe is similar, with current President Robert Mugabe labeling homosexuals as “worse than dogs and pigs” and having said that tolerance towards LGBT people is “unnatural” and “filth.”