Thirty-four U.S. states ban gay marriage. Which means that if you get gay-married, those states will ignore it and pretend like it didn’t happen. They’re not going to give you any of the benefits of marriage and, as a rule, won’t hold you to any of the obligations of marriage. And, crucially, not one of those states that banned gay marriage will throw you or anyone else in jail because you got yourself gay-married. Not one.
Nigerian did not ban gay marriage. It criminalized it, and made it a felony complete with prison terms of up to fourteen years for anyone getting gay-married, gay-civil-unioned, or entering into gay “adult independent relationships, caring partnerships, civil partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, registered partnerships, significant relationships, stable unions, etc.” — I’m quoting from the law here. And anyone else who “administers, witnesses, abets or aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage” or civil unions or any of the other above arrangements will be named a felon and imprisoned for up to ten years. No marriage “ban” on the face of the earth does all this. This is criminalization.
The new law also criminalizes “registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings,” with a ten years prison penalty. And police have already proved eager to prosecute the new law. The Associated Press reports:
First the police targeted the gay men, then tortured them into naming dozens of others who now are being hunted down, human rights activists said Tuesday, warning that such persecution will rise under a new Nigerian law.
The men’s alleged crime? Belonging to a gay organization. The punishment? Up to 10 years in jail under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which has elicited international condemnation for criminalizing gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them.
Police arrested four men over the Christmas holidays, beat them and tortured them into giving up names of other gay men. Since then, police have arrested thirty-eight and are looking for 168 more. Undoubtedly they will be pressed to give up more names, and you can see how this can snowball into a pretty major pogrom in no time. In the best case scenario, other more “benign” members of the police force in the notoriously corrupt nation see the new law as yet another opportunity for a shakedown:
Olumide Makanjuola said lawyers for his Initiative For Equality in Nigeria are backing lawsuits of several homosexuals arrested by police without cause. He said police regularly and illegally inspect the cell phones of gay suspects, then send text messages to lure others.
Then the men or women are told they will be charged and their sexual preferences exposed unless they pay bribes. “Some pay 5,000, some 10,000 naira ($30 to $60). Even though they have done nothing wrong, people are scared, people are afraid that even worse things will happen,” Makanjuola said in a recent AP interview.
NGOs in the reproductive health and HIV/AIDS fields fear a massive setback in their efforts to reach some of Nigeria’s more vulnerable populations.