The Nigerian House of Representatives today approved the bill banning gay marriage and outlawing anyone from forming organizations supporting gay rights, setting prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders. It has moved a step further to being passed into law.
The bill will now be sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for him to potentially sign into law. Whether he will approve it remains unclear, and both the United States and the United Kingdom raised concerns over a measure that could put foreign funding for AIDS and HIV outreach programs in jeopardy.
Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill in November 2011. The measure then disappeared before coming up in Thursday’s session of the House. Under previous versions of the proposed law, couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The bill would make it illegal to register gay clubs or organizations, as well as criminalizing the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.” Those who violate those laws would face 10-year imprisonment. Changing Attitude Nigeria and many other organisations responding to the sexual health needs of LGB&T people would be banned.
Nigeria’s proposed law has drawn the interest of European Union countries, some of which already offer Nigeria’s sexual minorities asylum based on gender identity. Changing Attitude England has supported several lesbian and gay Nigeria Christians who have applied for and been granted asylum in the UK.
The measure also could affect HIV and AIDS outreach programs funding by USAID, an arm of the US government. Nigeria has the world’s third-largest population of people living with HIV and AIDS.