Activists have slammed OutRage! – the UK gay rights organisation – for calling for potentially damaging action to protest a proposed anti-gay Nigerian law.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that Outrage!’s Peter Tatchell’s call to rally international pressure against the Nigerian government through a mass letter writing campaign to protest an anti-gay bill could actually damage the cause.

HRW and Nigerian gay rights groups have disputed that the legislation is about to be imminently passed by Nigeria’s parliament as claimed by Tatchell, and believe that his actions may worsen the situation.

Nigerian activists say that the proposed “Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith,” has actually stalled in the legislature and they anticipate that it will die a “quiet death”.

Under the proposed bill, a penalty of five years imprisonment will be imposed on any person who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” or who “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage,” or who “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.” Anything deemed to acknowledge, support, condone, endorse or promote a “same-sex amorous relationship” or gay people’s welfare and human rights will become illegal.

In a statement from HRW’s Scott Long, received by Mambaonline, he writes that “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. They’re not likely to take up the bill unless something – such as an international campaign – pushes them to.”

He goes on to say that, “One activist who has worked on this issue for a very long time wrote quite clearly to a group of us yesterday, inside and outside Nigeria, that Public actions, such as the one proposed by Mr. Tatchell, may bring unwanted and uneducated attention to the issue and unnecessarily instigate the government.”

Long accuses Outrage! of irresponsibility by not consulting with other human rights and LGBT groups and activists, who have worked to develop a political strategy around the bill for over a year.

“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,” wrote Long.

Tatchell responded to Long in a statement by saying that, “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.”

He said that he was prompted to issue the Outrage! alert after “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.”

He added that, “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.”

Long has requested that people do “not flood Nigerian consulates and embassies with protest letters at this time.”

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