Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law on Monday criminalising same-sex relationships, despite pressure from Western governments to respect LGBT rights.
The law, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison if convicted, bans same-sex marriage and other “amorous relationships,” as well as LGBT organsations. Although it was passed by the country’s national assembly last May, Jonathan has delayed signing the bill until now.
It is far from the first time that Nigeria has weighed such legislation. Two similar bills have been floated over the past eight years, but both failed to make it through to parliament.
“Yes, Mr President had signed the bill into law, a statement will be issued on it within the week,” presidential spokesman Reuben Abati told the Reuters news agency.
Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but this bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on gays and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence.
While several European countries, most recently France, have moved to offer same-sex couples the same legal rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, many African countries are seeking to tighten laws against homosexuality.
Britain and some other Western countries have threatened to cut aid, a threat that has helped hold back or scupper such legislation in aid-dependent nations like Uganda and Malawi.
But they have little leverage over Nigeria, whose budget is funded by its 2-million-barrel-per-day oil output.
“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison,” the newly-signed law states.
The news provoked an outpouring of anti-gay invective on Twitter, but there were also some who questioned the priorities of the president, who is commonly referred to by his initials.
“I cannot believe GEJ took time to sign a bill into law jailing people for being gay. I don’t have any electricity, dude!” one post read.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-13