Calls last week from gay rights group OutRage! to pile international pressure on the Nigerian government have been blasted as unhelpful and counterproductive by New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch.
On Friday, Peter Tatchell urged gay and lesbian people to contact the Nigerian goverment to show their opposition to draconian new laws aimed at outlawing same-sex marriage and restricting other gay rights.
Mr Tatchell asserted that the anti-gay legislation was actively being debated in the Nigerian Parliament and could become law imminently.
Human Rights Watch have attacked Mr Tatchell and OutRage, saying there is no evidence that the law is about to be passed, and that Nigerian activists hope that the legislation will not become law at all.
HRW said in a statement to PinkNews.co.uk, “there is no evidence right now that the bill is moving forward. It has been stalled in committee in the legislature for months.
“While some action on it is still technically possible, the legislature is now winding down and readying for elections,” a statment from HRW’s Scott Long says.
“They’re not likely to take up the bill unless something, such as an international campaign, pushes them to.”
Mr Tathcell responded to Mr Long’s claims in a statement to PinkNews.co.uk.
“OutRage! was not aware, until Scott mentioned it, of any change of tactics over this draconian legislation.
“It is a pity the international LGBTI movement was not informed when the decision was taken to de-escalate the campaign against the Bill. This would have avoided the current situation.
“The last thing OutRage! heard, early in 2006, was a call for an international campaign to lobby the Nigerian government. This is what OutRage! (and many other LGBTI groups) have been doing since then.”
HRW also claim that OutRage! have not contacted or consulted Nigerian activists who have been leading the fight against this bill before releasing their call to action.
Mr Long’s email states that gay activists in Nigeria are angry that their strategy, which included asking HRW and other international rights groups to refrain from commenting on the bill, is being undermined.
They feel that the less publicity the bill gets outside Nigeria, the less likely it will ever become law.
Mr Long says that many activists in the country have emailed him and he quotes one, a “highly respected Nigerian activist for LGBT” as saying:
“Not only was no communication passed by Peter to all genuinely concerned in Nigeria … it will do more harm than good at this point for such noise to be made about the issue at this, the dying moments of the Obasanjo administration.
“There is no excuse for sending out an alert like this without first getting a very clear and factual sense of the political situation in Nigeria, and without talking to, and evaluating the opinions of, all the activists, especially those who have been lobbying the legislature and leading the campaign.
“Even if OutRage! did speak to someone in Nigeria who said, “The bill is about to be passed! Mobilise the world!,” that doesn’t relieve them of the responsibility to seek the opinions of the full range of LGBT and human rights activists there, and trying to determine what the bill’s actual status was.”
Mr Long states that the political situation in the country is about to change, with the election of a new President.
Mr Tatchell has said that even in the last few days the danger of the bill becoming law was also highlighted by Leo Igwe, Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, who advised the Gay Lesbian Humanist Association in the UK that, “pressure must be brought to bear on Nigerian lawmakers and government to ensure that this oppressive piece of legislation does enter the statue book.”
OutRage! have been lobbying the Nigerian government for nearly a year, using radio, TV and newspaper outlets.
“Two things prompted OutRage! to issue its latest news release,”
a statement from OutRage! says.
“Requests from individual LGBTI Nigerians in Nigeria and from Nigerian LGBTI exiles and asylum seekers in the UK; and a series of recent press reports which suggested the Bill will become law.
“Quite understandably, given this welter of reports suggesting the Bill was proceeding and likely to become law, OutRage! wanted to help our Nigerian brothers and sisters by organising a last ditch lobbying effort to stop it being passed by the Nigerian parliament.
“We acted in good faith. But now we have been informed by Scott Long that campaigning on the Bill is no longer necessary or advisable (for the moment, at least).
“Accordingly, we will consult with LGBTI colleagues and organisations in Nigeria to discuss what should or should not be done from now on with regard to the bill.”
Mr Tatchell concluded that better communication is needed in the international LGBTI movement.