29th November, 2011
Defying pressure from Western countries against legislation that limits rights of sexual minorities, the upper chamber of Nigeria National Assembly, the Senate, on Tuesday passed a bill to prohibit same sex marriage.
Tagged Same-Sex Prohibition Bill, the law proposed up to 14 years imprisonment each for gay couples who decided to solemnize their union while witnesses to the marriage or anyone who assisted the couples to marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
The Bill also makes operation or registration of gay clubs or organizations a criminal offence.
Also proscribed by the new Bill is “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly” with 10 years imprisonment stipulated as punishment.
All the lawmakers who spoke during the sitting of the Senate on Tuesday supported the passage of the bill, with one Senator advocating death sentence as punishment for being gay. Yet, another lawmaker suggested 40 years imprisonment as punishment.
Before the vote on whether to pass the bill into law or not was taken, Senator David Mark, the President of the Senate acknowledged the fact that Nigeria will come under fierce international criticism over the legislation.
But he insisted that Nigeria will not bow to any international pressure. â€œOur values are our values. If there is any country that does not want to give us aid or assistance, just because we hold on very firmly to our values, that country can (keep) their assistance. No country has a right to interfere in the way we make our own laws,” said the Nigerian Senate President.
Markâ€™s jab is no doubt targeted at European Union countries, especially, the United Kingdom which recently threatened to cut aid to African countries that enact laws against gay or lesbian practices.
South Africa is the only African country that has enacted law allowing for same sex marriage.
But the new bill must be passed by the lower chamber, the House of Representatives and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan before it can become law.
It will be recalled that during the public hearing on the Bill sponsored by Senator Domingo Obende, last month, one Dr Obiowu who claimed to be a lesbian while speaking on behalf of Nigerians in Diaspora against anti-sex laws, had described the move to ban same sex marriage as a gross violation of their fundamental human right.
But her argument was met with jeers, boos and unrestrained laughter from some of the Senators present while other simply shakes their heads in pity of the self confessed lesbian. â€My faith as Christian abhors it. It is incomprehensible to contemplate on same sex marriage. I cannot understand it. I cannot be a party to it. There are enough men and women to marry each other. The whole idea is the importation of foreign culture but this one would be a freedom too many. We cannot allow our tradition and value system eroded,” Mark had said during the public hearing.
Some Nigerians however feel the National Assembly is neglecting tackling cogent problems confronting the country with focus on the seemingly unimportant and limited issue of homosexualism.