14 January 2014

Nigeria: Jonathan Signs Bill Against Same-Sex Unions

President Goodluck Jonathan has assented to a bill banning gay marriage and same-sex partnerships in Nigeria, despite international pressure not to do so.

Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the president, Dr. Reuben Abati, Monday confirmed the signing of the bill, whose passage had triggered international outrage over Nigeria's bid to criminalise homosexuality, to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). "I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law," he said without specifying a date but adding that Jonathan assented to the bill earlier this month.

Abati said Jonathan signed off on the Same-sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 because it was consistent with the attitudes of most Nigerians towards homosexuality. "More than 90 per cent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people. "And I think that this law is made for a people and what (the) government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment," Abati said.

Amnesty International had urged Jonathan to reject the bill, calling it "discriminatory" and warning of "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Under the terms of the law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison, while any such partnerships entered into abroad are deemed "void."

The law also makes provisions for sanctions against anyone who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship. Such a person could be jailed for up to 10 years. "Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria," the law states.

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