Homosexuality is now punishable up to 14 years in Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, has finally signed the law that bans gay marriage, public displays of homosexual relationships, and belonging to homosexual groups.
Nigerian Parliament passed The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act last May 2013, but the president signed the Act on Jan. 7 this year. The law against homosexuality has sparked a widespread international denunciation. The act has outlawed having any kind of gay meetings, gay clubs, associations and organizations. Under this law, anyone who enters into a same-sex union, engages in any homosexual activity or breaks the law can be sentenced with a 14-year prison term.
The signing was kept secret to avoid widespread condemnation where homosexuality is legal in other countries. It is deemed the most significant setback to gay rights in Africa. As Nigeria’s economy is the second largest in Africa and has a major influence within its region, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had strongly urged Mr. Jonathan in recent months not to sign it.
John Kerry, Secretary of State, says the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about restrictions on freedoms and violations of fundamental human rights. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, also condemned the new act in her Twitter message—‘‘Deeply troubled that #Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed anti-#LGBT law. Big setback for human rights for all Nigerians.”
According to The Associated Press, in an earlier draft of the law, it would have been a crime not to report a homosexual relationship, and parents could have been forced to report gay children, but that was deleted in the final version of the law. Experts said that the law would risk the lives of many individuals living with HIV and AIDS as any HIV and AIDS organization could be considered also a “homosexual organization”.
A Nigerian LGBT rights advocate, Davis Mac-Iyalla, said in a press interview that any type of support to LGBT people would be now unlawful, and that might translate into more young individuals becoming homeless, and social and state violence. Nigeria, known as “the Giant of Africa”, is the most populous country in West Africa, is a highly religious society. With its 170 million people almost divided in half between Muslims and Christians, most people hold negative attitude towards homosexuality.
“Should society accept homosexuality?” Pew Research Global Attitudes Project conducted a study on homosexuality in 39 African countries and revealed their result last June, where ninety-eight percent Nigerians answered “No” to that question. Lately, an even tougher anti-gay measure has been approved by the legislature in Uganda, but its President Yoweri Museveni has yet signed it. Gay rights in Africa are already widely prohibited, and are very limited in comparison to many other Western nations where the legality and acceptance of same-sex marriage and civil unions are expanding. Many African countries are continuing to breach international human rights laws, believing that a ban on homosexual relationships is consistent to their culture, society and religion.
By Rahad Abir