There is growing concern as Nigeria moves to pass a new extreme law which has been described as the “world’s most sweeping, draconian homophobic legislation.”

The bill is titled the “Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith.” It has been approved by the Federal Executive Council and is now before the National Assembly. It is expected to be passed and become law shortly.

Under the bill, a penalty of five years imprisonment will be imposed on any person who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” or who “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage,” or who “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.”

Anything deemed to acknowledge, support, condone, endorse or promote a “same-sex amorous relationship” or gay people’s welfare and human rights will become illegal.

Homosexual conduct between adults is already illegal in Nigeria, leading to a penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. This law was originally introduced by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century. It also illegal, under Sharia law, which was introduced in northern Nigeria in 1999.

Peter Tatchell of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group OutRage! described the proposed law as “the most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed in any country in the world. Its extremism is rivalled only by the death penalty that exists for homosexuality in several Islamic fundamentalist states.”

“The draconian measure will outlaw membership of a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest, advocating gay equality, donating money to a gay organisation, hosting or visiting a gay website, the publication or possession of gay safer sex advice, renting or selling a property to a gay couple, expressions of same-sex love in letters or emails, attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and publishing, selling or loaning a gay book or video. Even mere socialising by two or more gay people is likely to be interpreted as illegal,” he said.

Outrage! has appealed to gay and human rights groups worldwide “to take urgent action to press the Nigerian government to uphold international human rights law and to drop this draconian legislation.”

* Some research and information provided by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

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