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THE UK LGBT Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) has expressed shock at the news that Nigeria's parliament has approved the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill which could be signed by President Goodluck Jonathan very soon.

The Nigerian Senate has unanimously adopted the report of its conference committee on banning gay marriage. After two years, the Senate and the House of Representatives have reached an agreement about the wording of the legislation of the Billl. If it becomes law, any gay couple who gets married will be punished by up to 14 years prison and wedding guests will jailed for 10 years.  Anyone who provides services to a gay person will be imprisoned for up to five years. LGBT organizations will be banned, as well as any act of 'public showing of a same-sex relationship'.

Earlier this year, UK-based Yemisi Ilesanmi – a Nigerian woman who holds a Masters of Law (LL.M) degree in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights, wrote:

Africa is a large continent with diverse cultures and ethnicities, however homophobia fueled by religious intolerance and oppressive laws are remarkably similar issues many have in common. It seems however that black homophobia has replaced white racism as the newest form of intolerance to sweep across the African continent. This is not to imply that homophobia is a ‘black African’ phenomenon. In conservative societies including western societies, any challenge to heterosexual norms always provokes moral condemnation, exclusion and violence.

Commenting on this horrific development the PTT’s secretary, George Broadhead, said:

Gays and lesbians already face open discrimination and abuse in a country divided by Christians and Muslims who almost uniformly oppose homosexuality. In the areas in Nigeria’s north where Islamic Sharia law has been enforced for about a decade, gays and lesbians can face death by stoning.

It seems that there is a very real threat that this draconian bill will become law and, if it does, Nigeria will become one of the the most homophobic nations in Africa. Even in South Africa, the one country where gays can marry, lesbians have been brutally attacked and murdered. If the bill is enacted, the situation for LGBT people in Nigeria will become completely untenable, setting a precedent that would threaten all Nigerians’ rights to privacy, equality, free expression and free association.

It is clear that the main impetus for such Draconian legislation has come from religious sources including the Anglican Church. By contrast, the Nigerian Humanist Movement which has had financial support from the PTT, has defended LGBT rights in the country and its former executive director, Leo Igwe, deserves much credit for courageously speaking up for these rights in the country’s parliament.

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