If you’re gay in Nigeria, life just became even harder. Sex between two persons of the same gender is already illegal, but the President of that African republic has just signed into law a bill that makes same-sex marriage or any same-sex “amorous relationship” illegal as well.
Nigeria is the seventh most-populous country in the world, with an estimated 175 million people within its borders. About half the country observes Christianity, and about half observe Islam.
President Goodluck Jonathan had delayed signing the bill, which passed last May. It provides for penalties of up to 14 years in prison for the “crime” of entering into a loving relationship with a person of the same-sex, or even joining a group that supports LGBT civil rights.
“Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but this bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexuals and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence,” a Reuters report at Yahoo News states.
While European countries, most recently France, have moved to offer same-sex couples the same legal rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, many African countries are seeking to tighten laws against homosexuality.
Britain and some other Western countries have threatened to cut aid, a threat that has helped hold back or scupper such legislation in aid-dependent nations like Uganda and Malawi.
But they have little leverage over Nigeria, whose budget is funded by its 2-million-barrel-per-day oil output.
“Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” the bill says.
“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”
The news provoked an outpouring of anti-gay invective on Twitter, but there were also some who questioned the priorities of the president, who is commonly referred to by his initials.
“I cannot believe GEJ took time to sign a bill into law jailing people for being gay. I don’t have any electricity, dude!” one post read.
Colin Stewart at 76Crimes notes that the new law “could devastate organizations fighting for gay rights and against AIDS in LGBT communities.”
The new law creates huge barriers to anyone seeking to reach out to LGBT communities as part of an anti-AIDS campaign. According to recent surveys, an estimated 13.5 percent of men who have sex with men in Nigeria are HIV-positive. For the overall population, the HIV infection rate is 3.6 percent overall — a total of 3.3 million people by some estimates.
Image via Wikimedia
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