Letters and Editorials 677 Views Peter Tremblay

Nigeria remains anti-same-sex marriage despite global outcry



With almost 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth. But it is far from being a paradise for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. On the 7th of January, 2014, former president of Nigerian, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill into law. A massive global outcry followed the law which did not only criminalize same-sex marriage but also prohibited it.

Today in Nigeria, homosexuals can be jailed for as long as 14 years while in the northern Sharia-controlled states, they can face the death penalty. Right from when the bill was first drafted, it was subjected to vocal condemnation by the international community. The United States State Department made its objection known and in March 2006, more than a dozen international human rights groups issued their condemnation. They blasted the bill as an obstacle in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country. This was in addition to being in clear violation of the fundamental human rights guaranteed even under the Nigerian Constitution.

But as hinted earlier, not even international pressure could stop the Nigerian government from passing the bill into law. The then United States Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the legislation and branded the law as a dangerous restriction of the freedoms of all Nigerians. The British government also voiced similar concerns and condemned the law as a symbol of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Years after the global outcry and condemnation against the homophobic law, Nigeria remains one of the most homophobic nations on the planet. The law in place has criminalized homosexual sex and even those who run gay organizations or operate gay clubs are also deemed to be criminals under the law. Mere public display of same-sex affection can land one behind bars for up to 10 years.

A deeply religious country, Nigeria is so overwhelmingly homophobic that when the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2013, the results were more than stunning. An incredible 98% of the Nigerians who took part in the survey all gave homophobic responses. Only a negligible 2% felt that LGBT rights have a place in the country.

Even though the law has not been used to convict anyone yet, activists and members of the LGBT community are not keeping quiet. They keep organizing events discussing LGBT topics and they have several cases in court as they seek to overturn the law. Some analysts think Nigeria is going to remain homophobic for a long time to come owing to a number of factors.

One is the influence of religions in the country, especially Islam and Christianity. Nigerian clerics have followers in their millions and are all homophobic in their teachings. Another factor is the political system. In a country where politicians are more interested in millions of votes from the population more than anything else, there is no politician who will commit political suicide by voicing pro-LGBT concerns. Hence, even though the world keeps putting pressure on Nigeria, nothing is going to change anytime soon.


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