The European Parliament has called on Nigeria to stop persecuting LGBT people and to abandon plans to jail same-sex couples that marry.
The resolution, adopted by the Parliament late last week, addresses widespread violence and a worrying economic situation in Nigeria, and also condemns current legal threats to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
This includes the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill which was proposed in 2011, and has since been amended by the Nigerian Senate.
It aims to punish those in a same-sex union with 14 years’ imprisonment, and anyone ‘aiding or abetting’ such unions with 10 years in prison.
In addition to locals, tourists or humanitarian aid workers who are in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership are at risk of arrest and prosecution, said the Parliament in a statement. Those working in embassies but without diplomatic protection (such as technical staff) will also be subject to prosecution.
“Nigeria is already among the world’s top oppressors of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Why such a law now? Nigeria needs to follow the example of countries like Rwanda, Kenya or South Africa, which prove African nations don’t need to persecute the vulnerable in order to strive,” commented Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
In the resolution, the European Parliament urges “the Nigerian Parliament to reject the ‘Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill’ which, if passed, would put LGBT people – both Nigerian nationals and foreigners – at serious risk of violence and arrest”.
It also “calls for the abolition of current legislation criminalising homosexuality, in some cases making it punishable by stoning”.
Current legislation already punishes homosexual acts with 14 years’ imprisonment, or death by stoning in northern regions.
“Our Nigerian sisters and brothers have the European Parliament’s full solidarity in these difficult times. No group has ever called for same-sex marriage in Nigeria; our fellow lawmakers should stop obsessing about citizens’ private lives, and start tackling the dire socio-economic situation in Nigeria,” said Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-president of the LGBT Intergroup.