Nigeria’s Loose Definition of ‘Gay Marriage’ Casts Wide Net for Discriminatory Arrests


Nigerian already makes gay sex illegal; two penises or two vaginas together is worthy of a prison sentence. Now Nigeria, not exactly celebrated for its human rights record, wants to enact legislation allowing police to arrest gay people for just, well, being gay. At least there’s some opposition.

Technically, the law Nigerian legislators might enact allows for married gay people to be sentenced to three years in prison — except in Nigeria, “gay marriage” simply means any two gay people who simply live together. That is, the loose rules for gay marriage in Nigeria can get you arrested; in the U.S., it would get us equal rights. (More interesting: If you are merely someone who “witnesses, abet and aids the solemnization” of same-sex marriage, you face five years in prison, plus a fine.)

No wonder gay Nigerians find themselves running to the United Kingdom for asylum.


Nigerian gay rights activists have told the country’s lawmakers that a new bill to outlaw same sex marriage would lead to widespread human rights abuses. The new law would mean prison sentences for gay people who live together, and anyone who “aids and abets” them. The plea by activists was made to a public committee of the National Assembly which is discussing the bill. It is already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria but the new law would extend police powers to arrest suspects.

“This bill is not necessary, we see no reason why people should be criminalised,” Rashidi Williams, 23, of the Queer Alliance of Nigeria told the committee. “I did not choose to be gay. It is trial enough to live in this country, we should not create more laws to make us suffer,” he said.

Under the new law anyone who has “entered into a same gender marriage contract” would be liable to be jailed for three years. The bill defines a same sex marriage as gay people living together.

Anyone who “witnesses, abet and aids the solemnization” of a same gender marriage would face five years in prison, or a fine.

Activists say the law does not make sense because anyone who aides and abets people to live together would face a tougher sentence than the couple concerned. The law would make it easier for the police to arrest suspects, and criminalise anyone working in a human rights organisation that dealt with gay rights, they say. [BBC]

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  • Raphael

    You ever get the feeling that our political leaders have been too silent about the kind of persecution that goes on against gays in Africa? (or other regions, for that matter)

  • Jennifer

    What about the Church? Do hear the Church saying anything, but “go bigots”? Peter Akinola, the murderous swine, heads the largest national Church in the Anglican Communion, but he’s the biggest bigot of all.

    Nigeria has oil. There’s a clue.

  • blake


    Have you noticed that the official platform of the U.S. Republican Party is anti-gay??!! Have you noticed that many U.S. politicians and religious leaders regularly compare gays to pedophiles or blame major disasters on the presence of gays?

    Let’s stop pretending that the horrors inflicted against gay people in poor countries don’t happen in the U.S. or other wealthier countries but just under politer terms. How often do we read about gays being fired for being gay, being killed and their killers getting off because of gay panic defense measures, etc., etc. Didn’t we just read about a young gay British man’s killer getting away with murder? Didn’t we read about the brutal murders of two gay Spaniards and their killer escaped through a gay panic defense?

    When you read about these kinds of horror in other countries, remember that as evil as these people are, they are largely following in the footsteps of their wealthy counterparts. The laws condemn homosexuality in much of Africa and Asia were put in place by the British and other European colonial powers.

    Of course, more recently, European countries Poland, Bosnia, Latvia, and Russia have seen government officials demonize gays.

    Do you remember all of the gays and lesbians butchered in the U.S. in the last 5 years: Michael Sandy, Lawrence King, etc., etc. What about the young lesbian who was just beaten and gang raped?

    Too often when these stories appear about homophobia in poor countries, many U.S. and European gays put up a holier-than-thou attitude.

  • hardmannyc

    “Have you noticed that the official platform of the U.S. Republican Party is anti-gay??!!”

    Have you noticed that the Republican Party is out of power?

  • blake


    Nope. Not true. The GOP still controls lots of power in the U.S. Senate, governor mansions, state assemblies, and local government. The GOP was successful in helping to get Prop 8 passed in California and several other anti-gay initiatives around the country.

    The negative issues facing the GOP has more to do with other factors than with acceptance and tolerance of gays. Why have recent initiatives to offer domestic partner benefits to gays been overturned or defeated?

    The GOP is weakened but it is still dangerous.

  • Andrew Triska

    @blake: Your comment reminded me of an experience I had the other day. I was reading E.M. Forster’s “Maurice” and thinking about how cruel it was that sodomy was illegal in the days the novel took place. I thought, “If only Forster could see society today!”

    Then I remembered that, until 2003, sodomy laws were still being upheld (and sometimes enforced) in the United States.

    It’s tempting to think of virulent (and violent) anti-gay attitudes as things that only exist in other countries and in other times, especially if one lives in a gay-friendly area, but one occasionally gets the reminder that these things are never too far from our own doorsteps.

  • Sebbe

    @hardmannyc – How many weeks has it been since they have been out of power?

    On a side note, I believe I read that Nigeria has the fastest growing economy in Africa.

    They are also the 8th largest country in the world, slightly larger than Russia.

  • JJJJ

    Blake and Andrew Triska : Gays in Jamaica, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Iran would be a little more than just insulted at your even comparing the situations.

  • Andrew Triska

    @JJJJ: I didn’t mean that our situations are equal – you’re right, people in the countries you mention do have it MUCH worse than we do – just that we still have a long way to go in the U.S., and the same attitudes motivate homophobic reactions in every area of the globe. Sorry if I minimized the situation in those countries. Hopefully Clinton will make good on her promise to target gay persecution worldwide.

  • Sceth

    @Andrew Triska: I’m left wondering if the administration is willing to touch aid…

  • Pantherfarber

    @Sebbe Are you calling Nigeria slightly larger in economic terms or land area. Nigeria is only about 9 hundred thousand square kilometers while Russia is about 17 million square kilometers. I know this has nothing do really with the original post but just had to ask.

  • getreal

    When are we going to start demanding our government sanction these countries that persecute LGBT people.

  • Mister C


  • Lex


    I’m thinking its a population comparison. I think Nigeria has the largest population in Africa. It’s not the biggest by land, I know that.

  • Sebbe

    @Pantherfarber – population. China (1,335), India (1,145), USA (305), Indonesia(229), Brazil (190) , Pakistan(165), Bangladesh (158), Nigeria (148), Russa (141), Japan (127) , Mexico 106), Philippines (90), Vietnam (87) , Germany (82). Figures are in millions according to the UN.

    Of course area wise the two largest counties are Russia and Canada (Canada is about half the size of Russia). Almost exactly the same size for 3rd and 4th is China and the United States.

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