By V. AL-PEA
A bill prohibiting same sex marriage and related matters has passed, despite pressures from Western nations, namely the United States. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights for further legislative work. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Domingo Obende representing Edo North in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, has polarized the Nigerian human rights community.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Obende maintained that the spread of gay marriage is like pornography and terrorism and must be stopped.
People found guilty of indulging in same sex marriage risk a jail term of 14 years with no option of fine. Also, persons who witness, aid or abet the solemnization of a same sex union or support the registration risk a jail term of 10 years. Similarly, gay clubs or organizations such as rights groups have been made illegal
During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared his government would slash aid to countries that do not recognize gay rights. According to him, countries that receive British aid should “adhere to proper human rights,” which includes legalizing gay marriage. Unfortunately for him, his comments have generated the opposite result. Soon after his comment, the president of Ghana objected to the idea.
Shortly after the passage of the Nigerian bill, the human rights watch group Amnesty International was the first organization to react against it, calling on Nigerian authorities to scrap it. “By broadly defining ‘same-sex marriage’ as including all same-sex relationships, and targeting people who ‘witness’, ‘aid’ or ‘abet’ such relationships, the Bill threatens the human rights of a large number of people,” Amnesty International said.
Speaking further on the issue, the group’s Director of the Africa Programme, Erwin van der Borght, said, “Nigeria’s House of Representatives should show leadership and uphold the rights of all in Nigeria by rejecting this reprehensible Bill. If passed, this measure would target people on the basis of their identity, not merely their behaviour, and put a wide range of people at risk of criminal sanctions for exercising basic rights and opposing discrimination based purely on a person’s actual or presumed sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A brief survey by TMV showed that the bill is a welcomed development by a majority of Nigerians. “Same sex marriage is a complete negation of the Bible,” pastor Sam Johnson said. Mallam Sani Umar, an Islamic cleric was also quick to say that the holy book of Muslims abhors in totality such practices.