A ban on gay marriage and gay clubs with penalties of up to 14 years jail was signed into law by Nigeria’s president last week, according to disclosures made in Abuja on Monday. It follows similar legislation recently adopted by parliament in Uganda.
U.S. Secretary John Kerry said in a statement: “The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.”
He continued, “Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution. People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love. We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.”
“The Nigerian government should immediately move to stay implementation of the Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Bill signed into law this month,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). According to widespread news reports the law stipulates prison sentences for vague actions, such as indirectly depicting homosexuality, and criminalizes freedom of speech, assembly and association of those advocating human rights and equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual, and trans individuals (LGBT).
“It doesn’t take a lawyer to understand that this law is unconstitutional, dangerous, and wrong,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of IGLHRC. “The authorities must stay its implementation immediately.”
The bill, signed into law this month, was adopted by the Nigerian Senate in December 2013, in an attempt to reconcile different versions of the bill from the Nigerian parliament’s Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill criminalizes same-sex unions, as well as the direct or indirect “public show” of a same sex amorous relationship, and the “registration, operation, and sustenance” of “gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions, or meetings.” The Nigerian criminal code already criminalizes same-sex sexual conduct between men, and, depending on interpretation, women as well.
“The law’s overly vague and broad provisions create a legal uncertainty that deeply undermines the rule of law,” said Stern. “Artists, teachers, health workers, human rights defenders, essentially anyone who helps another person out, can be criminalized if that person is then accused of being gay. This bill threatens to undermine the very fabric of Nigerian society.”
President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly signed the bill into law because, he is reported as saying, “A majority of Nigerians are against same-sex marriage.”
“This bill goes far beyond banning same-sex marriage. It criminalizes community and compassion,” said Stern.
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