Nigerian lawmakers this week approved a bill that would radically extend the country’s existing anti-gay laws to punish those who marry someone of the same-sex and those who failed to denounce them.
The legislation, which was approved by the House this week and by the Senate in November last year, would make it an offense to participate in or be party to a same-sex marriage. A penalty of up to 14 years in prison awaits anyone who violates this law.
The anti-gay animus during the House debate was blatant.
“It is alien to our society and culture and it must not be imported,” House majority leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande said during debate, referring to same-sex marriage. “Religion abhors it and our culture has no place for it,” she added.
House minority leader Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill represents “convergence of both law and morality.” He said that same-sex marriage “is both illegal and immoral.”
Further, the legislation would make it an offense to “directly or indirectly” make a “public show of same-sex amorous relationships.” The clause appears to be so open ended that any same-gender conduct could be suspect.
The legislation would also tighten current laws to virtually make gay rights groups illegal. As has been demonstrated in other nations where such bans have been flirted with or applied, this risks seriously hampering the fight against HIV/AIDS by further criminalizing one of the at risk populations — men who have sex with other men.
Sadly, the legislation is being billed as a defiant move against western ideology.
Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said the bill needed to be passed to send a strong signal to the western world that Nigeria was not prepared to sacrifice her moral and ethical values for the sake of foreign aids and donations.
Other lawmakers who contributed to the debate argued that the bid by the so-called advanced countries to export same sex marriage into Nigeria under the guise of protecting human rights and freedom of association was reprehensible and unacceptable.
The legislation has now been referred to legislative committee where it will undergo a clause by clause analysis.
However, a public hearing on the bill is not needed and given that Nigeria’s senate has already approved the legislation, so long as no substantial changes are made, the reconciliation process could be brief and the bill could become law within a matter of months.
Appealing to the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, would also seem fruitless as it is believed that even if he returned the legislation to parliament, which seems unlikely, there is enough support in Nigeria’s legislative chambers to vote the bill through.
Why Nigeria’s lawmakers have chosen to move on this bill despite rabid unemployment and health concerns is unknown. Indeed, Nigeria’s marriage laws already de facto ban same-sex marriage, and therefore the bill would appear to be nothing more than an overt power play over western nations threatening Nigeria’s aid.
Both President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their disquiet at the bill and urged Nigeria to reconsider.
The US has already instructed all US agencies working with foreign governments that particular emphasis must be placed on the human rights standards expected of aid-recipients.
With this act, Nigeria joins Uganda and Liberia in moving forward with overtly hostile anti-gay legislation, the most infamous among them being Uganda’s Kill the Gays bill which lawmakers have vowed to pass by Christmas.
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