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Nigerian bill "off the agenda" says Peters

Thu 16 Aug 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News

A Nigerian Bill which could criminalise the expression of gay sexuality in there seems to have been taken off that country's political agenda, says New Zealand's Foreign Minister. News agencies and human rights watchdog groups around the world had fallen silent on the issue, leading to local concerns over the bill's progress. Foreign Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand is aware of this Bill and the important Human Rights Issue it raises. "The most recent information we have received is that, following the recent elections in Nigeria, the Bill is not on the legislative agenda of the new Nigerian National Assembly," Peters says. "Please be assured, however, that New Zealand will continue to follow this issue and if we receive reports that the Bill is to be pursued again by the Nigerian Government we will once again seek to engage as appropriate opportunities arise." New Zealand supports the right of people not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and works with others in multilateral forums as appropriate to discourage such discrimination, continues Peters. "For example New Zealand joined a statement led by Norway on sexual orientation and gender identity at the Third session of the Human Rights Council." News reports from northern Nigeria last week suggested eighteen men had been remanded in prison following arrest for alleged sodomy. Peters assures New Zealand will continue to monitor the situation. "New Zealand recognises the fundamental importance of all individual human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. "New Zealand also firmly opposes the death penalty and was the first country to become party to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty," he points out. Openly-gay Labour MP Charles Chauvel had written to Peters on the Nigerian issue and says he now welcomes the Foreign Minister's official response. "When I first wrote to him, I have to say that I was apprehensive," Chauvel explains. "He does not have a progressive voting record on our issues. But I think that the Ministry and its Minister have responded satisfactorily to the concerns expressed. "The New Zealand Government has monitored the Nigerian situation. Nigeria is not progressing the Bill, and I am confident that international pressure has played its part in bringing this position about. Congratulations to all the other members of our communities who wrote to make their views known to the Government on this issue." Chauvel says that his keeping in touch withex-Kiwi John Fisher at ARC International - the International LGBT rights organisation - means our Labour-led Government continues to keep New Zealand to the fore when international bodies deal with the interests of our communities around the world. "We can all be proud of this, and the Rainbow Labour caucus will continue to monitor and encourage those initiatives," he concludes.     Ref: (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Thursday, 16th August 2007 - 5:45pm

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