THE LAW AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS:  LGBTQ and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights – The Discussion We Need To Have

THE LAW AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS: LGBTQ and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights – The Discussion We Need To Have


Victoria Abutu (Project Officer- Key Populations and Sexual Minorities)

The first reaction that follows most conversations about the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria is mostly a strong religious or acclaimed morality backed stigmatisation, a fierce support or a neutral standpoint. The LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria is a semi-closed and secret society because the country, although not publicly declared to be a religious state, still has a jail term for openly declared members of the LGBTQ+ community written into its laws. This law has not only encouraged stigmatisation against the members of the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria but also prevented members of the community from accessing certain health needs especially related to their sexual and reproductive health. The law works against the basic human right to access healthcare and the right to Sexual and Reproductive Health. 

In a study done by Susanne Strömdahl, Abimbola Onigbanjo Williams, Bede Eziefule, Godwin Emmanuel, Stella Iwuagwu, Oliver Anene, Ifeanyi Orazulike, Chris Beyrer and Stefan Baral done in 2019 among 297 MSM in Abuja Nigeria, the results showed that “36% (102/284) reported having been discriminated due to their sexual orientation. 41% (116/286) had been blackmailed due to their sexual orientation. 28% (81/289) had been arrested and 11% (31/287) had been arrested due to their sexual orientation. 36% (101/278) had been beaten due to their sexual orientation, 7% (20/278) by a family member and 8% (21/278) by a sexual partner. 3% (9/278) reported having been beaten by police or government officials due to their sexual orientation. 18% (51/281) reported having been raped of which 24% (12/51) reported rape to authorities/police. Only 1% (n = 2/295) had been denied health care due to their sexual orientation. 

The United Nations coordinated an international conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt in September 1994, where it was decided that sexual and reproductive rights were human rights, and they also affirmed them as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.” The right to a safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the freedom to choose parenting and sexuality, were among them. Couples and individuals have the right to choose the number, spacing, and timing of their children without being forced to do so. It also encompasses, as stated in human rights declarations, the right of individuals to make reproductive decisions free of discrimination, coercion, and violence. Similarly, everyone should have the right to have pleasurable and safe sex, as well as the freedom to choose whether to do so, when, how, and with whom, in circumstances devoid of discrimination, compulsion, or unnecessary risk of sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs).

Young people, women, and men all have the right to clear and accurate sexuality information, as well as access to safe and cheap contraception of their choice and safe abortions. All services necessary to ensure healthy pregnancies and births should be available to women and men.

The existence  of criminalization laws renders LGBT people more exposed to police brutality and other forms of human rights abuse as well as an exacerbated rate of domestic violence, mental health disorders and physical and emotional abuse. LGBT+ persons have to hide their sexual orientations in order to access basic health amenities due to discrimination and stigmatisation by health workers as well a fear of arrest and imprisonment.

The law since its inception has only proven to be a façade to deny certain individuals their due rights and privileges and if not changed or completely written off could be a source of further human rights abuse against the LGBT+ community and could result in mob actions like stoning, lynching or worse killings of person suspected to be members of the society and could also become a tool of religious fanatics and “moral police” to use against effeminate men, masculine women and people who just exhibit any character that is not normally attributed to their assumed gender.

The LGBTQ+ community has been denied their basic rights to access their SRHR due to the criminalisation law and it has denied them the right to comprehensive and safe healthcare, which is a basic human right.

This law should be reviewed to capture the human rights of individuals in its true form.