“When governments legitimate persecution – they provide the license for genocide! ”
–  Melanie Nathan, International Human Rights Advocate…

Nigerian Senate Votes for an Anti-Gay Law

by Peter Tatchell

 Sweeping criminalization contravenes Article 42 of the Nigerian constitution

Same-sex marriage and civil unions to be banned

14 years jail for participants,

10 years jail for helpers & witnesses

Gay advocacy groups & same-sex public affection to be outlawed

The Nigerian Senate voted on Tuesday 29 November to criminalize same-sex marriages and civil unions, with penalties of up to 14 years jail for participants and 10 years jail for anyone who helps or witnesses such a marriage or union.

In addition, the scope of the bill has been dramatically widened. It now also criminalizes gay organizations and advocacy groups, and public expressions of same-sex affection. These newly added offences carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for approval. If it is passed there, and secures the President’s signature, it will become law.

See this Reuters report:

According to Reuters, the bill states:

“Persons who entered into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison….

“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”

Commenting on the bill, Yemisi Ilesanmi, the Nigerian bisexual coordinator of the campaign group, Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws, said:

“This legislation is a clear attempt to crush the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) community in Nigeria. The further criminalisation of same-sex relations is hateful and a violation of human rights.

“The bill will jail Nigerians who participate in LGBTI organisations and will make human rights advocacy by LGBTI groups impossible.

“The new penalties for same-sex marriage are more than double what the bill originally demanded. The previous penalty of three years jail for same-sex couples who get married has been raised to 14 years. For witnesses and facilitators of such marriages the maximum jail term has been increased from five to 10 years. The decision to so substantially increase the punishments is particularly abhorrent.

“It is shameful that many Nigerian senators are so ignorant as to compare homosexuality to pedophilia during the voting on the bill.

“The action of further criminalizing an oppressed minority because of their sexual orientation is indeed an outrage, a gross violation of human rights. Nigeria is sliding fast into a despotic state.

“The bill aims to further criminalize same-sex relationships. Already, consensual same-sex conduct between adults is a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years imprisonment and in some parts of the country there is the death penalty under Sharia law,” said Ms Ilesanmi.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, the gay campaign director of the Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws, noted:

“The Nigerian senators have today further demonstrated their discrimination and oppression of vulnerable LGBTI Nigerians. I urge human rights activists worldwide to join forces with us to fight the bill.”

“This vote demonstrates how the senators are ignorant of human sexuality. They are enforcing their religious beliefs in a secular country. Equality and human rights are for all, including Nigerian LGBTIs,” he said.

Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, added:

“This bill violates the equality and non-discrimination guarantees of Article 42 of the Nigerian Constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which Nigeria has signed and pledged to uphold. See more details below.

“There is a good chance that this bill, and Nigeria’s long-standing criminalisation of same-sex relations, can be challenged in the courts. This could be a future option for LGBTI campaigners and human rights defenders.

“The law against homosexuality is not an authentic national law that originated in Nigerian jurisprudence. It was imposed on Nigeria by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century. Despite Nigeria now being an independent country, this British colonial law has never been repealed.

“Our Nigerian colleagues are still hopeful that they can defeat the bill at the next stage. We stand in solidarity with their struggle for LGBTI equality,” he said.


Editor’s Note:  The Current Law in Nigeria

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Nigeria  already face major hurdles and legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria — a largely conservative country of more than 150 million people, split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

This new law that could add to the imposition with harsh sentences, nationwide, may well bring attention to the existing situation.

Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death by stoning in the 12 states that have adopted Shari’a law, and by up to 14 years imprisonment throughout Nigeria. There is no legal protection against discrimination. Very few gays are out, and violence against LGBT people is frequent. Legislation is pending to criminalize same-sex marriage throughout Nigeria.

According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, a strong 97% of Nigeria residents said that homosexuality should be rejected by society, making it one of the highest rejections of homosexuality in the 44 countries surveyed.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Twelve northern states have adopted the Shari’a penal code: Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. The Shari’a penal code does not apply to non-Muslims.

Same-sex sexual activity in Nigeria is illegal according to Chapter 21, Articles 214 and 217 of the Nigerian penal code and can be punished by imprisonment of up to 14 years throughout Nigeria. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, anal intercourse (Liwat) is punished with 100 lashes (for unmarried Muslim men) and one year’s imprisonment and death by stoning for married or divorced Muslim men. As of March 2006, press reports say that more than a dozen people have been sentenced to death by stoning since 2000, but the sentences had not been carried out.

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