Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke

In the wake of international condemnation, the Nigerian government has continued to falsely claim that its new anti-gay law is simply intended to “discourage” same-sex marriage.

Defending the country’s so called Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, insisted that the law did not outlaw homosexuality.

Speaking in the midst of a visit last week by UN human rights head Navi Pillay, who has been a vocal critic of the law, Adoke said that he wished to “re-emphasise that our laws do not criminalise individual sexual orientation.”

According to Leadership, he claimed: “The focus of the Act is, therefore, discouragement of same-sex marriage which is a reflection of the overwhelming beliefs and cultural values of the Nigerian people as demonstrated by a 2013 Opinion Poll which showed that 92 per cent of Nigerians reject same-sex marriage.”

Adoke’s statements are inaccurate, and, considering his position in government, suggest that he is attempting to misinform the public, the media and the international community.

Adding weight to the suspicion that this approach is part of a government strategy, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, also painted the law as being all about same-sex marriage, ignoring the other discriminatory elements of the legislation.

“Some of the issues that you raised are on the issue of same-sex marriage. We do not want it,” Wali told Pillay on Thursday, reported This Day. “Holistically, we cannot assure you we can accept the same-sex marriage. There is no way we can do that. Nigeria is fundamentally a very religious society and our people cannot accept.”

In fact, the draconian law not only bans same-sex marriage (which was already not legal in Nigeria) but also outlaws almost any expression of same-sex love.

The sweeping legislation will imprison same-sex couples who attempt to marry for 14 years and will also jail anyone who witnesses, solemnises or aids a same-sex marriage for 10 years.

It will further imprison anyone in any kind of consensual adult same-sex relationship for 14 years and any public display of same-sex affection will lead to a prison term of 10 years.

The bill will also jail anyone who supports or operates gay clubs, societies and organisations or holds gay processions or meetings for 10 years.

Same-sex sex was already illegal in Nigeria with 14 years imprisonment. Twelve northern states in Nigeria also operate under Islamic Sharia law that allows homosexuality to be punished with death by stoning.

Concluding her visit, Pillay said at a press conference in Abuja on Friday that Nigeria’s gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is “living in fear” because of the law, which came into effect in January.

“The law violates international law in that it is discriminatory and seriously impinges on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said Pillay, adding that it could lead to mob justice, violence and blackmail and extortion of LGBT people.

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