Nigeria House of Representatives Passes Anti-Marriage, Anti-Advocacy Bill
May 30th, 2013
Nigeria’s draconian legislation which not only criminalizes same-sex marriage and all other forms of domestic arrangements and even displays of affection, but also outlaws all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people, has passed the lower House of Representatives last Thursday, according to the Associated Press:
Lawmakers in Nigeria passed a bill Thursday banning gay marriage and outlawing anyone from forming organizations supporting gay rights, setting prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders.
Nigeria’s House of Representatives approved the bill in a voice vote, likely sending it immediately t0 President Goodluck Jonathan for him to potentially sign into law in Africa’s most populous nation. Whether he will approve it remains unclear, and both the United States and the United Kingdom raised concerns over a measure that could put foreign funding for AIDS and HIV outreach programs in jeopardy.
The bill was introduced in Nigeria’s Senate in September 2011. After several more provisions were added and penalties increased, it sailed through in December. (The full text of the bill, as passed by the Senate, is available here.) The Senate’s bill doesn’t just ban same-sex marriage; it imposes criminal penalties of ten to fourteen years imprisonment for entering into a marriage or civil union, conducting or witnessing a ceremony, or even performing a public display of affection. It also imposes criminal penalties for anyone who would provide services or advocacy on behalf of gay people. The relevant portions of the bill as passed by the Senate include:
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.
The bill also broadly defined “civil union:”
“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.
It is not clear whether the House version of the bill is identical to the Senate version. If it is, then the bill’s next stop would be the desk of President Goodluck Jonathan.