Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has passed a law banning gay marriage, same-sex relationships, and membership of gay rights groups, in a move that has sparked international outcry.

The bill was first put forward in 2011 as the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, but its scope has since been dramatically widened. According to the president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, the bill was passed by Nigeria’s national assembly back in May despite widespread criticism from the West. It was officially signed into law on Monday.

President Goodluck Jonathan at Nelson Mandela's service. Kevin Coombs / Reuters

President Goodluck Jonathan at Nelson Mandela’s service.
Kevin Coombs / Reuter

In a statement, Mr. Abati said: “More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people.”

It seems he may have drawn his comments from the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, in which a study found that 97 percent of Nigerians believed that society should not accept homosexuality as a way of life.

The new legislation means that same-sex relationships or civil unions have become fully criminalised in Nigeria and offenders could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. Moreover, even being part of a gay organisation or an advocacy group, or showing public displays of same-sex affection can result in a 10 year imprisonment.

More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people.

Reuben Abati
Nigerian Presidential Spokesman

Human rights activists around the world have condemned the law with many calling it ‘abhorrent’. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the newly implemented measures “restrict freedom of assembly” and is “inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations.”
It is important to note that the bill arguably violates the Nigerian Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which Nigeria has signed.

According to Yemisi Ilesanmi, the Nigerian coordinator of Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws, the bill is a “violation  of human rights” and “demonstrates how the senators are ignorant of human sexuality.”

As it stands, Nigeria’s record on LGBT rights is very poor and no legal protection is offered to victims of anti-homosexual discrimination in the west African country.

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