In DepthSoapboxNigerian lawmakers on traditions and human rights


Posted on Friday, 31 May 2013 16:11

Nigerian lawmakers on traditions and human rights

Nigeria's House of Representatives on Thursday endorsed strict anti-gay measures
Nigeria has banned rights groups supporting gay marriage from existence.

The decision to ban gay marriages and groups that may gather to demand their rights comes at a time when progress is being made in other parts of the developed world.

The stature of the regressive decision by the Nigeria's House of Representatives on Thursday was the endorsement of a measure that also calls for 10-year prison sentences for any "public show" of affection by same-sex couples.

Governments across the world have since condemned and protested the passing of the bill.

The United Kingdom has threatened to stop aid to nations that discriminate against gays. The United States and other European nations have also raised concerns.

The new bill could have an immediate direct effect on some groups sponsored by USAID, an arm of the US government. Some USAID funding is given to groups to combat HIV and AIDS in Nigeria including gays and lesbians.

Under the proposed law, Nigeria would ban any same-sex marriage from being conducted in either a church or a mosque. Gay or lesbian couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison.

Bystanders or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

While the decision was unanimously approved by the lawmakers, observers wait to see if President Goodluck Jonathan will sign the bill into law.

In the status quo, gays and lesbians face public ridicule and possible prison sentences in Nigeria, and the new bill will only legitimise the rights abuse and persecution of LGBT community in Nigeria.

Chairman of Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu said he only learned about the House's vote late Thursday night. He said the bill, if passed into law, it was likely going to be challenged in court.

"If that's the scope, there will be serious issues," Odinkalu said.

The decision to ban gay marriage and gay right groups and prohibit the public show of affection among gay people is heavily informed by conservative versions of Islam and Christianity in a nation of religious extremism.

But by denying LGBT rights groups to exists, the government shuts down dialogue, debate and dialectic about the issue.

However, the threats by academics, social and natural scientists and Western governments appear unlikely to assuage the desire of Nigerian authorities to further criminalise homosexuality.

Nigeria joins a growing group of African nations with such laws to legislate against what they believe is a challenge of their traditional values by the West.

The bill was initially passed in November 2011 and the measure was abandoned until Thursday night session of the House.


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