Anti-Gay Laws Pass in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives recently voted in favour of a ban on gay marriage, outlaw any groups actively supporting gay rights and endorsing a measure that also calls for 10-year prison sentences for any “public show” of affection by a same-sex couple.

The House of Representatives appeared to unanimously approve the proposal in a voice vote, sending it immediately to the President, Goodluck Jonathan for him to sign it into law in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill back in November 2011, although it seemed to disappear in procedure for some time before re-emerging in the most recent session of the House. This new law would not only ban any same-sex marriage from taking place either in a mosque or a church, it would also see same-sex couples face up to 14 years in jail for marrying in other locations. In a horrendous abuse of freedom the law would also have implications for friends and relations of gay people, as anyone who witnesses or conducts same-sex marriages would face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The law would also effectively silence Nigeria’s gay population, as under the proposed legislation anyone taking part in a group advocating for gay rights or anyone caught in a “public show” of affection also would face 10 years in prison. Many fear this is just the start of an anti-gay campaign by the political leaders in the country that would lead to custodial sentences for simply being gay or lesbian. There is already a ban on gay sex in the country and a culture of hatred toward gay people has existed for many years, including when the country was rules by the British Empire.

The bill is currently with President Goodluck Jonathan awaiting for his approval or an incredibly unlikely veto. So far all requests for comment on this issue have gone unanswered either by his office or the President himself. The UK, which gives millions free money and aid to Nigeria has previously threatened to stop aid to nations that discriminate against gays, but no money has yet been stopped to any nation on this basis. Plus there seems little appetite among the government elite to make a stand on the issue because of the backbench revolt Prime Minister David Cameron faced over his stand on gay marriage recently.

During 2011 President Barack Obama issued a similar directive asking officials to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and the transgender people included having diplomats “combat the criminalisation” of being gay by foreign governments, yet the US remains the biggest customer for the Nigerian oil industry.

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