Nigeria’s House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass the so-called “Jail All the Gays” bill, banning same-sex marriages, outlawing any groups endorsing gay rights and calling for 10-year prison sentences for any “public show” of affection between same-sex couples.
According to the AP:
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. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Anyone taking part in a group advocating for gay rights or anyone caught in a “public show” of affection also would face 10 years in prison if convicted by a criminal court.
The bill had originally passed the Senate in November 2011 and passed its second reading in the House last November. In a voice vote, the House simply adopted all of the clauses the Senate had previously approved. The bill now goes to President Goodluck Jonathan for his approval or veto.
Gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, with a maximum punishment of death by stoning in the north where Shari’a law has been adopted. In the south, the maximum punishment is a relatively lenient 14 years’ imprisonment.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in 38 African countries, yet several nations are trying to pass even harsher anti-gay laws, including Uganda, whose “Kill the Gays” bill originally prescribed the death penalty or life imprisonment for certain same-sex acts. The death penalty, however, has been reportedly removed from the latest version of the bill.
Chidi Odinkalu, the chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission said the bill, if passed into law, likely would be challenged in court. Meanwhile, Nigerian gay rights activist Bisi Alimi blames the bill’s passage on “political instability” and questions surrounding the legitimacy of both the House and Jonathan.
“It is a shocking way for them to try to get through those political problems by passing this bill,” Alimi told Gay Star News. “If the president signs this bill it will be the first country in recent history to criminalize gay people in its constitution in this way. And it will have a big impact. Uganda will be next, Sierra Leone will follow.”