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

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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.

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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]