The Nigerian Government is advancing a bill which punishes any person who enters into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years of imprisonment.
The bill passed through Nigeria’s Senate last week and is expected to be approved by its House of Representatives soon.
Nigerian citizens who are found to be witnessing or aiding the same-sex marriage act in any way may also be liable to up to 10 years of imprisonment.
The bill comes after consideration of a report conducted by the African country’s Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The report outlines a jail term of up to ten years for any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations as well as any “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.”
Nigeria is a country divided between Christians and Muslims who almost uniformly oppose homosexuality.
Chairman of the committee, Dahiru Umaru says, “Nigerians are unanimous in condemning the obnoxious practice of lesbianism, gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersex as being against the order of nature.”
But Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International’s Africa program, believes the bill will “...set a precedent that would threaten all Nigerians’ rights to privacy, equality, free expression, association and to be free from discrimination.”
After recent steps to address marriage equality in Australia, this bill seems like one giant step back for equality and basic human rights in Nigeria.
As a result of the passing of this bill, HIV and AIDS funding from Western contributors such as the US and UK governments are at risk of being taken away.
But lawmakers who played to the deeply religious side of Nigerians in support for the bill say this threat to cut off aid won’t compromise the bill being implemented.