The Nigerian embassy in Berlin, Germany issued a muddled response last week to international outrage over the country’s pending ban on same-sex marriage.
The statement, dated December 7th, was posted on the embassy’s website.
It acknowledges protest letters from the public relating to the recent passage by Nigeria’s senate of a bill banning same-sex marriage, and goes on to respond in a series of contradictory comments.
On the one hand the embassy claims that Nigeria “recognises and respects the inalienable rights of every individual within its jurisdiction to basic freedoms” and that “the government and people of Nigeria recognise the rights of individuals to live their lives as they please”.
It then goes on, as a justification for the legislation, to effectively state that Nigeria’s culture and traditions trump these freedoms and rights.
“Nigeria as a nation and a people, have rich culture, norms, traditions which forbid same sex marriage and or any form of sexual relations between same sex, and are prepared to maintain this age-long cultural heritage,” reads the statement.
The embassy also insists that “the Nigerian state also has inalienable obligation to uphold public morality within the context of indigenous culture and traditions”.
The statement notes, however, that the bill has yet to be passed by the House of Representatives or be approved by the president.
The embassy concludes by asking for “understanding on this matter, which it considers an internal affair of Nigeria and the Nigerian people.”
If the bill becomes law, members of same-sex couples who attempt to marry face 14 years in jail. Anyone who is found guilty of witnessing or aiding the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage could be fined or receive up to ten years in prison.
The bill also criminalises public affection between members of the same sex and bans the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations.