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Friday, 15 January 2010

More concern for Igwe

This blog’s parent organisation, the UK gay humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), has expressed its grave concern about the continual harassment by the police of the Nigerian humanist and human-rights activist Leo Igwe, who has made a staunch public defence of LGBT rights in his country. An updated press release – following the one we reported on on 12 January – reflects the fact that, after being arrested, Igwe has been released on bail. He has also since spoken about his and his family’s ordeal at the hands of Nigerian authorities.

Mr Igwe and members of his family have been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment by police involving multiple arrests on unsubstantiated charges since 2007.

Mr Igwe is the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. In 2006 he made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage, but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. The Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who declared that homosexual practice “is clearly un-Biblical, unnatural and definitely un-African”.

In 2008 Mr Igwe and his humanist colleagues were awarded the Rainbow Humanist Award by Nordic Rainbow Humanists “for their courageous defence of LGBT rights and dignity in the face of ferocious attacks from homophobic Nigerian politicians, parliamentarians and religious leaders calling for the imprisonment of those having homosexual relations and those who dare to support such relations, and for reminding fellow countrymen and women in Nigeria of the need to safeguard the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the need for reason, common sense, thoughtfulness, knowledge, love, tolerance, solidarity and empathy, instead of hate and homophobia”.

Pink Triangle Trust secretary George Broadhead commented: “We are very concerned about Mr Igwe. He is fearless and selfless in fighting for justice for LGBT people. Like the UK’s Peter Tatchell, he is never afraid to challenge the powerful even when he is a lone voice and knows that the powerful may hurt him. It is up to his fellow Humanists and others concerned with human rights to show that he does not stand alone and work together to ensure justice for him.”

The PTT has sent a letter of protest to the Nigerian High Commissioner in the UK Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida and asked the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights to issue a public condemnation.

Leo Igwe wrote an article for our sister publication Gay & Lesbian Humanist in December 2009.

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