On January 23, the Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn, who is also known for decades of advocacy for human rights and speaking out against rights violations, attended a panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to discuss some of the recently enacted anti-LGBT laws around the world.
Hawn, who is the founder of The Hawn Foundation and its mindfulness-based program MindUP, which aim to improve lives through emotional literacy, traveled to the forum to get the message across to global leaders that “we need to put the human back in humanity,” according to the HRC Blog.
When Hawn met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on the evening of January 22, she posted a picture of the two on her Twitter; when she was informed of Nigeria’s recently enacted anti-LGBT law, however, she took it down.
“The situation facing LGBT Nigerians is unconscionable and unacceptable,” she said, according to HRC. “I stand with HRC and LGBT Nigerians because I know that we can overcome human rights abuses by speaking up and standing together.”
HRC President Chad Griffin said in her defense, “Goldie Hawn is a lifelong supporter of human rights and LGBT equality. Like too many people around the world, she was unaware of President Jonathan’s recent actions that further criminalize LGBT people and make it illegal for Nigerians to be a member of an LGBT rights group like HRC. We cannot embrace world leaders who harass, torture, and imprison their LGBT community. All members of the World Economic Forum, including business and governments leaders from around the globe, should let President Jonathan know that his horrific actions targeting LGBT Nigerians severely damage Nigeria’s international reputation.”
Hawn herself posted on Twitter after taking the picture down:
— Goldie Hawn (@goldiehawn) January 23, 2014
On January 7, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill that criminalizes same-sex marriage, under which members of married gay couples can be imprisoned for up to fourteen years, and up to ten years’ imprisonment for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs, societies and organizations. The law also prohibits any homosexual public displays of affection.
According to Gay Star News, Nigeria had already arrested dozens of men by the end of the first week; local activist Dorothy Aken’Ova said that some were also tortured into naming others.
The law is also having a severe impact on access to HIV/AIDS-related healthcare; it is estimated 3.4 million Nigerians are HIV-positive, and many of the workers in that field have been arrested and tortured.