There has been widespread scrutiny and dismay over Nigeria’s new anti-gay legislation, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in January. Given that it’s such a hot button issue, here are some quick facts that explain the details of the law, and what it means for the Nigerian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Sources: TheGuardian.com, WashingtonPost.com, BBC.co.uk, HuffingtonPost.com, Advocate.com
Unsurprisingly, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act bans gay marriage. It’s the cornerstone of the law, but is only just the beginning.
The bill states, “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.”
This includes membership to, operation of, or participation in gay clubs, societies, or organizations.
Those who attempt to push for civil rights for the LGBTQ community are also in danger of jail time. Even doing research on homosexual practices is now illegal in Nigeria.
Beyond entering into any type of union or contract, same-sex relationships themselves are now illegal and involved parties face jail time upon conviction. This has also led to a “witch hunt” of sorts, in which mobs have attacked suspected gay people in their communities.
The law states, “Any person who…directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offense and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”
This has been on the books in Nigeria for some time, as well as in numerous other African nations, but the new legislation reinforces the law. There have also been instances of public whippings and beatings for those suspected of sodomy.
While this also includes activism groups and civil rights groups, it has been expanded to encompass organizations that provide HIV services to gay men and women. Any organization that specifically tries to target homosexual communities to provide HIV/AIDS assistance is now operating illegally.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been facing opposition from the Northern Nigerian states and their Muslim majorities that operate under Shariah law. It’s thought his signing of the bill was a strategic move to appeal to those groups.
While this tactic has been applied before on countries such as Uganda and Malawi that attempted sweeping anti-gay legislation, it may not be as effective in Nigeria. With 2 million barrels of oil output daily, Nigeria is somewhat insulated from foreign influence.
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