Navi Pillay

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

UN human rights head Navi Pillay said on Friday that Nigeria’s new anti-gay law could lead to mob violence against LGBT people.

Pillay concluded her trip to the country with a press conference in Abuja.

The South African born UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in her briefing that Nigeria’s gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is “living in fear” because of the law, which came into effect in January.

“The law violates international law in that it is discriminatory and seriously impinges on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and could lead to human rights defenders advocating for the rights of LGBT people receiving draconian prison sentences,” said Pillay.

She warned that the law will drive LGBT people underground, leading to “serious negative consequences for public health,” adding that “given that Nigeria currently has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, this would be a heavy blow to the efforts to combat HIV.”

Pillay revealed that she had received reports of widespread arrests of LGBT people in some states as well as “some physical attacks, including by mobs, and other forms of harassment such as a rise in blackmail and extortion.”

She explained that “as someone who grew up in South Africa under Apartheid, and was discriminated against both because of my colour and my gender, I am acutely aware of the terrible effects of discrimination and intolerance.

“If I can get one clear message across during this visit, it is a call on all Nigerians to respect diversity and encourage tolerance for other human beings, no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they do in the company of their friends and loved ones. Intolerance, self-righteousness and lack of respect for others’ human rights is what fuels extremism, creates discord and conflict, and ruins lives,” she said.

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