Nigeria’s Senate has passed an “anti-gay marriage” bill, extending its scope by also criminalizing gay clubs and organizations, and making public displays of affection between gays punishable with 10 years imprisonment.
Under the proposed law, gay couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps gay couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Other additions to the bill include making it illegal to register gay clubs or organizations, as well as criminalizing the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.” Those who violate those laws would face 10-year imprisonment as well.
The bill must still be passed by Nigeria’s House of Representatives and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan before becoming law.
“The Nigeria senators have further demonstrated their hate, discrimination and oppression of vulnerable LGBT Nigerians. I call on all respected human rights activists to join forces with us to fight the bill,” said Davis Mac Iyalla campaign director of the Nigerian LGBT in diaspora group.
The campaign group expressed its concerns that the bill would further turn many LGBT Nigerians living in diaspora into asylum seekers and refugees.
“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,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organization, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“There is a good chance that this bill, and Nigeria’s long-standing criminalization of same-sex relations, can be challenged in the courts. This could be a future option for LGBTI campaigners and human rights defenders,” he said.
Gay sex has been banned in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, since colonial rule by the British. Gays and lesbians face open discrimination and abuse in a country divided by Christians and Muslims who almost uniformly oppose homosexuality.
In the areas in Nigeria’s north where Islamic Shariah law has been enforced for about a decade, gays and lesbians can face death by stoning.