The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday disregarded the desire of the country’s western allies, passing a strict law banning same-sex marriage and public display of affection by gays in Nigeria.
The bill – Same Sex Marriage (prohibition) bill 2011 – is the first law passed by the five-month-old seventh Senate and prescribes 14 years jail sentence for convicted gays in Nigeria. It was sponsored by Domingo Obende (PDP Edo state) shortly after the senate was constituted in June this year.
“Persons who entered into a same sex marriage contract or civil union commits an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment,” the new law said.
The new anti-gay rights law is clearly in breach of the United Nation’s resolution calling for universal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual people. It is also likely to anger western nations like Britain whose Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently threatened to withdraw aids from countries which do not recognise gay rights.
Conscious of the implications of the law in Nigeria’s foreign diplomacy, the President of the Senate, David Mark, scorned at countries that may not be pleased with Nigeria’s stance against same sex behaviour.
“Countries who would prefer not to give Nigeria aids on the account of its aversion to same sex marriage should keep such aids to themselves,” Mr said. “Our Values remain our values.”
The anti-gay rights law is very popular in Nigeria as it aligns with popular religious, cultural and moral principles of majority of Nigerians.
The law effectively invalidates and criminalises gay marriages entered into outside Nigeria and practised within the country. It also criminalises gay clubs, societies and organization, gay dating and public display of affection by gays.
“Any person, who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organization, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships in Nigeria commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment,” the law states.
Witnesses (signatories) to gay marriages in Nigeria, organizers of such marriages and members of its bridal train are also liable for an offence that will attract 10 years imprisonment on conviction, according to the law.
The law declared that only marriages contracted between a man and a woman under Islamic or Christian law, Customary law or the Marriage Act are valid in Nigeria.
The law emphasizes the Nigerian Penal Codes which already prohibit same-sex marriages or canal knowledge, describing it as against natural order in Nigeria. Homosexuality can land men up to 14 years in prison in the South and capital punishment for men in areas under Sharia Islamic Law.
The law does not however become effective instantly. It will be presented to the House of Representatives for concurrence after which the president will be required to sign it into law to fully activate its provisions.
Only South Africa allows same sex marriage in Africa and Nigeria’s bold move, bears the potential of emboldening more African countries most of which do not have laws against the act to enact similar laws.
Below is a breakdown of legislations on gay marriages around the world. Ten countries have so far authorised marriages between people of the same sex.
– NETHERLANDS: in April 2001 became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage – including the right to adoption.
– BELGIUM: Homosexual couples in Belgium won the right to marry in June 2003 and in April 2006 parliament voted into law a bill allowing homosexual couples to adopt children.
– SPAIN: In July 2005 became the third member of the European Union to pass a law to allow same-sex marriages. Gay couples can adopt children.
– CANADA: The law allowing gay couples to marry and adopt children came into force in July 2005.
– SOUTH AFRICA: In November 2006 became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage.
– NORWAY: A January 2009 law allows homosexuals to marry and adopt children and permits lesbians to be artificially inseminated.
– SWEDEN: Sweden’s homosexuals have been allowed to wed in religious or civil ceremonies since May 2009.
– PORTUGAL: Under a June 1, 2010 law Portugal legalised gay marriage, while excluding the right to adoption.
– ICELAND: Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir married her long-time partner in June 2010 as a new law legalising homosexual marriages came into force.
– ARGENTINA: On July 15, 2010 a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage came into force — a Latin American first. Homosexual couples can adopt children.
Two countries allow gay marriage on parts of their territory: the United States — the states of Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and the capital Washington DC, and Mexico in the federal capital.
Other countries that have adopted legislation on civil partnerships are Denmark, France, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Britain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Uruguay and Colombia.