December 5th, 2011
A copy of the revised bill criminalizing all same-sex relationships, along with all LGBT advocacy and defense of LGBT persons, which passed the Nigerian Senate on November 29, was posted online by Paul Canning. You can also download an OCR PDF here (PDF: 1.3MB/4 pages). It should be noted that this bill goes way beyond merely rendering marriage unavailable to same-sex couples as American bans on same-sex marriage do. It goes much further by making it a felony, mandating a fourteen year prison term for those who attempt to enter into a marriage or any other type of same-sex arrangement, along with a ten year term in a Nigerian prison for anyone who would “witness, abet and aids the solemnization” of such an arrangement.
Comparing the revised text with the original draft reveals several significant changes. The first change begins with the definition of the type of marriage being criminalized. The original draft defined it as follows:
“Same Gender Marriage” means the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.
The phrase “for other purposes of same sexual relationship” opened the application of the proposed bill to virtually any two adults living together, regardless of whether they had undergone any sort of solemnization ceremony or registration. However, it appears that Nigerian politicians feared that the point wasn’t driven home as sharply as they would have liked. The new bill has the same definition (although it now defines “Same Sex Marriage” rather than “Same Gender Marriage”), but adds the following definition that also requires the same prison terms:
“Civil Union” means any arrangement between persons of the same sex to live together as sex partners, and shall include such descriptions as adult independent relationships, caring partnerships, civil partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, registered partnerships, significant relationships, stable unions, etc.
In other words, any two adults living together can reasonably be accused of violating the law and being subject to spending the next fourteen years in prison.
The new bill as passed by the Senate also adds the following penalty:
Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly make public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commit an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.
The term of ten years imprisonment for anyone showing displays of affection “directly or indirectly” is incredibly vague and ambiguous, and could be interpreted in any number of different and unpredictable ways. In addition, anyone who “supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria” will be subjected to a ten year term. By outlawing even ad hoc meetings in which topics concerning gay people are discussed, Nigeria proposes to obliterate the rights of free assembly and speech for all Nigerians and visitors, including health care workers and organizations. It would even effectively ban coordination of monitoring human rights violations from within Nigeria.
The vague and ambiguous wording in the bill makes it almost impossible to envision any effective limits on what this bill would make criminal. As currently written, the bill casts an impossibly wide net which can potentially ensnare anyone, regardless of sexuality, who has an interest in human rights in the West African nation.
Here is the full text of the 2011 bill as passed by the Nigerian Senate:
AN ACT TO PROHIBIT MARRIAGE OR CIVIL UNION ENTERED INTO BETWEEN PERSONS OF SAME SEX, SOLEMNIZATION OF SAME AND FOR OTHER MATTERS RELATED THEREWITH
BE IT ENACTED by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as follows:
1. (1) Marriage Contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.
(2) A marriage Contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex is invalid and illegal and shall not be recognised as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
(3) A Marriage Contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex by virtue a certificate issued by a foreign country shall be void in Nigeria, and any benefits accruing there from by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law in Nigeria.
2. (1) Marriage or civil union entered into between persons of same sex shall not be solemnized in any place of worship either Church or Mosque or any other place or whatsoever called in Nigeria.
(2) No certificate issued to persons of same sex in a marriage or civil union shall be valid in Nigeria.
3. Only marriages contracted between a man and a woman shall be recognized as valid in Nigeria.
4. (1) The Registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, their sustenance, processions and meetings are hereby prohibited.
(2) The public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly is hereby prohibited.
5. (1) 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 imprisonment.
(2) Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly make public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commit an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.
(3) Any person or group of persons that witness, abet and aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage or civil union, or supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.
6. The High Court of a State or of the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain matters arising from the breach of the provisions of this Bill.
7. In the Bill —
“Court” means High Court of a State or of the Federal Capital Territory.
“Civil Union” means any arrangement between persons of the same sex to live together as sex partners,and shall include such descriptions as adult independent relationships, caring partnerships, civil partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, registered partnerships, significant relationships, stable unions, etc.
“Marriage” means a legal u.niol1entered into between persons of opposite sex in accordance with the Marriage Act, Islamic Law or Customary Law.
“Same Sex Marriage”means the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.
“Witness” means those who sign as witnesses to the solemnisation of the marriage.
8. This Bill may be cited as Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, 2011
This Bill seeks to prohibit marriage or civil union entered into between persons of same sex, and to provide penalties for the solemnisation and witnessing of same thereof.
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