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Nigeria backs law to jail all gays and those who hide them

Nigeria’s National Assembly has voted for a law to jail all gay people and anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the authorities
Nigeria's National Assembly has backed new anti-gay legislation.
Photo by Shiraz Chakera.

Nigeria’s lawmakers have approved plans to jail people for being gay and even imprison people who don’t report homosexuals they know about to the police.

The west African nation already makes gay sex illegal and even punishable by the death penalty in the north part of the country but the new legislation goes much further.

Under the proposed law that has passed both the Senate and, this week, the House of Representatives there would be a crackdown on LGBT people which could lead to a witch-hunt.

Openly gay people would be imprisoned whether or not they have sex and LGBT organizations would be criminalized.

Anyone who knows somebody who is gay would have to tell the authorities or they could go to jail for five years.

Gay marriage would be punished by 14 years prison for the couple and 10 for anyone else involved in the ceremony. Even wedding guests could be jailed.

And ‘any person who directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships’ would get a 10-year sentence.

The Nigerian House of Representatives approved the bill, already voted through the Senate, on a second reading this week.

Speaking about same-sex marriage during the debate, house majority leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande said: ‘It is alien to our society and culture and it must not be imported. Religion abhors it and our culture has no place for it.’

And minority leader Femi Gbajabiamila also backed the bill saying gay marriage ‘is both illegal and immoral’.

But Nigerian gay activist and Gay Star News contributor Bisi Alimi said this was really about politicians trying to gain popular support in the highly religious country.

He said: ‘Nigerian LGBT community has never asked for marriage so there is no basis to ask for an anti same-sex marriage bill. This is just a voting winning political agenda.

The bill is now being reviewed on a clause-by-clause basis. After that stage it will return for a final vote in parliament before being signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Experts have told GSN that Jonathan is a weak president unlikely to veto the legislation. However, even if he does veto, the Senate and House of Representatives can still vote again to push the legislation through.

Despite this, the legislation may not actually be in the long-term interests of the country’s political leaders. Some have suggested the bill may be used by unscrupulous politicians to smear their opponents by accusing them of being gay, and therefore destroying their careers.

The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) in Nigeria has condemned the proposed law.

Olumide Makanjuola, director of programs, said: ‘It is unfortunate that the argument presented by the legislature is invalid, illogical and unethical in democratic politics.

‘Nigeria is secular state and still remains as such. Therefore, religion should have no stake in law making in the country. Unfortunately, this is what we get!

‘This is unfortunate modern day democracy, where equity and justice is non-negotiable. It is unacceptable for the state to interfere in privacy of lives that pose no threat to statehood.’

TIER is among those worried the bill could stop or damage the work of organizations fighting AIDS in the country.

They have called on the National Human Rights Commission to intervene by raising concerns with legislators.

Nigeria’s move comes as Uganda also presses ahead with it’s own Kill The Gay’s Bill. While the two laws do have some similarities, Nigeria’s move towards this legislation actually predates Uganda’s from 2006.

However it may be the Uganda parliament’s pledge to push their bill through as ‘a Christmas present’ for its supporters has encouraged Nigeria to think its proposals will have support on the other side of Africa.

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