Nigeria adopts harshest homophobic law in recent history

On Thursday 30 May, Nigeria’s parliament adopted the ‘Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill’, a law that foresees up to 14 years’ imprisonment for gay, lesbian and bisexual people who marry or display affection.

Nigerian flagThis is the harshest piece of legislation against LGBT persons adopted worldwide since 12 northern Nigerian states endorsed Islamic Sharia law in 2000 and 2001, punishing consensual same-sex activity by death.

Initially tabled in 2011, the bill adopted yesterday outlaws same-sex marriage in Nigeria, and punishes with fourteen years of prison anyone who marries, or is married to, a person of the same sex. No exceptions are foreseen for foreign tourists, workers including aid workers, or diplomats.

No human rights group had ever demanded access to same-sex marriage in a country that already punished consensual same-sex activity with fourteen years in prison (or death in 12 northern states).

The same law will also punish with ten years’ imprisonment any public display of affection between two people of the same sex, or any involvement in running a gay bar or an NGO defending the human rights of LGBT people.

The European Parliament had called on Nigerian MPs to shelve the legislation in 2011 and in 2012.

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup and member of the Committee on Development, said: “Words fail me to qualify this barbaric piece of legislation. The time has come for all countries, including EU Member States and our High Representative Catherine Ashton, to discourage the President from signing this bill into law.”

“Aid conditionality isn’t the answer, and we shouldn’t tie severely-needed development aid to this law, but all diplomatic and economic levers should be pulled.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup and Greens/EFA spokesperson on foreign affairs, added: “This law is wholly unnecessary; no-one had ever asked for same-sex marriage in Nigeria, and this is just another success of American evangelists who’ve travelled to Africa several times over to spread their hateful homophobia.”

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