For the third time in five years the Nigerian parliament is considering a law seeking to prohibit same sex marriage after a new bill was presented to the House. The Nigerian Vanguard newspaper reported on Wednesday September 28, 2011, “The bill had its second reading yesterday September 27, just as senators described the act as ungodly, morally and religiously unacceptable”. The bill is sponsored by Senator Domingo Alaba Obende, Edo North senatorial district and had its first reading in July.
Behind the Mask says the information about the re-introduction of the bill is very new. Human rights activists are still unaware. Therefore, there has been no reaction from the civil society so far.
The Nigeria government has been seeking to further criminalise same-sex relations in Nigeria through the prohibition of same-sex marriage since 2006 when the first bill was sent to the parliament by the presidency during the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. This bill died a natural death in April 2007, when a new administration was elected into power; with the now since deceased Umar Yar’dua as President.
Later in 2007 Nigeria’s lower chamber, the House of Representatives, received a similar bill, which had been re-titled: “A bill for an act to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender, solemnisation of same and for other matters related therewith”. The difference here was that the term sex in the initial bill had been replaced with the word gender.
In reaction to the bill, a consortium of human rights organizations led by the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights was formed in 2007. This consortium responded and attended the public hearings, which were held at the National Assembly on February 14, 2007 and March 11, 2009.
At these hearings, the consortium expressed the human rights implication of the bill and its threat on socio-economic development of the nation as well as relations in the international community.
For the second time, the bill died a natural death in April, 2011, when the Goodluck Jonathan administration was elected to power.
This same bill has now surfaced again and it is now being titled: “A bill for an act to prohibition marriage between persons of same sex, solemnisation of same and for other matters related therewith.” The term gender in the previous bill has been replaced with the word sex.
It is currently being referred to the committees on judiciary, human rights, legal matter, health and culture and tourism. Nonetheless, “the bill enjoyed an overwhelming support of other senators who described the practice as criminal and against the tenets of nature,” the Vanguard reported.
During the second hearing senators expressed their apprehension about the growing trend of same-sex marriage in the Global North; especially in the United States. They were concerned about the institution of marriage in the context of religion, family values and how sexuality; including homosexual behaviour would be taught in schools. Therefore, they felt responsible as lawmakers to “act fast in avoiding a situation where same will creep into the country”, said Senator Obende.
Obende further argued that ‘’Opening the legal door to same sex marriage in Nigeria will be morally and ideologically unsound when other traditionally shunned intuitions as incest remain illegal. The problem with same sex marriage is not the slippery slope; the primary assertion is that just as most Nigerians should maintain that incest is socially unacceptable practice, so too should they disallow same sex marriage.”