Nigerian and international human rights bodies have opposed that country's draconian proposed anti-same-sex marriage bill.
The bill would punish people of the same sex who live together as a couple with up to three years in prison. Anyone who "witnesses, abet[s] and aids" such a relationship could be imprisoned for up to five years. The bill could even be used against foreigners in same-sex marriages if they enter Nigeria.
In a letter to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, and other national, regional and international bodies urged legislators to reject the bill. If passed, the groups appealed to Jonathan to veto it.
Nigeria's parliament has twice before seen anti-gay bills. Both times they ended up being dropped in the face of civil society protest in Nigeria supported by an international outcry. Article 214 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act already provides up to 14 years in prison for anyone who "has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature."
According to a report in Behind The Mask, legislators are trying to get this bill passed by ‘wrong footing’ Nigerian activists and international attention. But opponents managed to attend a first parliamentary hearing 31 October.
At the same time a care2 petition with over 12,000 signatures was presented.
According to Yemisi Ilesanmi of Nigerian LGBTI in Diaspora Against Anti Same Sex Laws:
When a woman from a Catholic lawyers’ group spoke saying that homosexuals are mentally deranged people and that no one in the room would openly identify as a homosexual, one of the bill's opponents stood up and said "I am a gay and proud to be!"
He said that cameras immediately focused on him and religious groups started screaming abuses.
He was disappointed to see that no one else stood with him that time, but later during the hearing " four courageous faces" stood with him out of 30 LGBT people present. Those who did not explained later that they feared the consequences of publicly identifying as gay.
There was a great disparity in allotted time at the hearing, says Ilesanmi, and amongst those supporting the bill were the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Ilesanmi said that in a secular state the Senators violated the fundamental rights of the activists by condoning abuses directed at them and encouraging religious questions.
The international groups opposing the bill point out that: