Nigeria seeks to strengthen anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Lawmakers in Nigeria hope to pass a bill which strengthens laws against homosexuality.

The legislation seeks to criminalise same-sex marriage. Its sponsor, Senator Domingo Obende, claimed that gay marriage is “spreading” and must be stopped.

Nigeria already punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison and gay marriage is not recognised in the country.

The latest bill follows two previous attempts to strengthen anti-gay laws in 2006 and 2009. Plans were quietly dropped after international condemnation.

According to Nigerian gay rights campaigner Yemisi Ilesanmi, the bill has already passed its second reading.

She said: “A public hearing is scheduled for Monday 31st October, 2011. However, there are concerns within the Nigerian LGBT community that the recent bomb blasts in the country could be used as a pretext to deny public access to the hearing.”

Ms Ilesanmi added: “This bill would lead to harassment of people for their actual or imputed sexual orientation. It would also stifle freedom of expression and association through the proposed ban on organisations that support lesbian and gay rights.

“The passing of the bill would give official validation to the harassment of sexual minorities and many homophobic persons would use it as a licence to discriminate against lesbians and gays.”

Many senators have spoken out in support of the bill. Senator Victor Lar warned that same-sex marriage would lead to the end of the human race, while Senator Oluremi Tinubu said homosexuality causes “mental problems” in old age.

Senator Obende said: “The legalisation of same-sex marriage in our country will make the next generation never to recover from the law of committed God fearing family.

“Same sex marriage is spreading and spreading round the whole world just like pornography and terrorism which has become the order of the day if not arrested on time.”

As well as criminalising gay marriage, the bill also criminalises anyone who “witnesses, abets and aids the solemnisation of a same gender marriage contract”.