Nigeria ‘celebrates’ 51 years of Independence with new anti-homosexuality bill

Nigeria is to mark it’s 51st anniversary of nationhood with the introduction of yet another anti-homosexuality bill. – two previous Bills in 2006 and 2009 were abandoned. The present Bill [Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011 – the Bill is published below] seeks to further criminalise anyone who either enters into a same sex marriage or witnesses, supports, aids, a same gender marriage. The penalties are three years imprisonment for entering into a marriage and five years or a fine of N2,000, for witnessing, supporting, aiding such a marriage. For a group witnessing, supporting or aiding there is a fine of N50,000.

The previous two Bills were abandoned following the statements at a public hearing, of Nigerian human rights activists and their allies, that the Bill was a violation of the rights of individuals and as such not appropriate in a modern democracy. The sponsors of the two previous Bills were never able to explain why they wish to criminalise that which is already criminalised and that explanation is still absent from this bill. Though the 2011 Bill has been watered down it still reinforces the criminalisation of same sex / gender relationships.

Nigerian human rights activists have come together quickly and published a strong statement condemning the Bill and pointing out the rights of Nigerians as stated in Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 7 of The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Already, in 2006, the Special Representative condemned the previous version of this bill in a letter to the Nigerian government. This bill would increase the risk to human rights defenders, and would violate Nigeria’s human rights obligations.

As citizens and human rights defenders, we demand our rights. As tax-paying Nigerians, we demand the efficient use of our financial resources. We request the Senate to disregard this ominous bill, and consider instead discussing life saving legislation, including the Anti-Stigmatization bill and National Health Insurance bill.

Statement by

NIGERIA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS CONDEMN 2011 SAME GENDER MARRIAGE PROHIBITION BILL

We, the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights were shocked and deeply concerned by the news published in the Nigerian press about the re-introduction of “A bill for an act to prohibition marriage between persons of same gender, solemisation of same and for other matters related therewith”

Similar bills appeared before the House in 2006 and 2008 and were critically analysed both times by human rights activists, who articulated the dangers of the bills to a democratic society.

We wish to remind the parliament that Nigeria is a secular state. This means that the laws of our land cannot and should not be drafted and/or enacted on the basis of a particular religious and cultural value. These values already indicate the diversity of Nigeria as a heterogeneous society–hence our federal system of government.

We as human rights defenders are aware that not a single gay group has asked for the right to marry. Our advocacy is not directed at that. We are advocating for tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of his or her sex, gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc. These rights are not illusionary. They are rights that Nigeria’s same —sex loving people derive from Chapter IV of the Nigerian constitution, which lists the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Nigerians, including the rights to freedom from discrimination, to personal liberty, to human dignity, and to private life.

Furthermore, we feel deeply threatened by the proposed paragraph 4(2) of the bill, which provides greater criminal liability to anyone who abets and aids same-sex marriage. An individual would face up to five years’ imprisonment.

This provision clearly targets the activities of human right defenders, who have a mandate, without limitation, to defend the rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in its Article 7, specifically provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance.”

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders has repeatedly expressed concern over attacks on defenders “who are at particular risk, namely those who defend the rights of indigenous people and minorities [and] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons and women human rights defenders.” (UN Doc A/HRC/4/37, January 24, 2007, at 55).

Already, in 2006, the Special Representative condemned the previous version of this bill in a letter to the Nigerian government. This bill would increase the risk to human rights defenders, and would violate Nigeria’s human rights obligations.

As citizens and human rights defenders, we demand our rights. As tax-paying Nigerians, we demand the efficient use of our financial resources. We request the Senate to disregard this ominous bill, and consider instead discussing life saving legislation, including the Anti-Stigmatization bill and National Health Insurance bill.

Dorothy Aken’Ova:
darlyndotty@yahoo.co.uk
+2348034500714

Akoro Joseph Sewedo:
sakoro@initiative4equality.org
+2347066622191

The Same Gender Marriage Bill [Prohibition] 2011
An Act To Prohibit Marriage Between Persons Of Same Gender, Solemnization Of Same And For Other Matters Related Therewith
Sponsors:
Senator Domingo Obende
Senator Ehigie Edobor Uzamere
Senator Adegbenga Seflu Kaka
Senator Borrofice Robert A.
Senator Pius Ewherido
Senator Yusuf Musa Nagogo
Senator Mohammed Magoro
Senator Emmanuel Paulker
Senator George Sekibo
Senator Eyinnaya Abarbe
Senator Nenadi E. Usman
Senator Helen Esuene
Senator Babafemi Oiudu
Senator Owremi Tinubu
Senator Owgbenga Ashafa
Senator Obadara Owgbenga
Senator Joshua Dariye
Senator Saleh Mohammed Sani
Senator Hope Uzodinma
Senator Ayogu Eze
Senator Smart Adeyemi
Senator Ahmad Lawan
Senator Igwe Paulinus Nwagu
Senator Mohammed D. Goje
Senator Barnabas Gemade
Senator Boluwaji Kunlere

BE IT ENACTED by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as follows:
1.—(1) Marriage Contract entered between persons of same Gender is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.
(2) Marriages Contract entered between persons of same gender are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
(3) Marriage Contract entered between persons of same gender by virtue a certificate issued by a foreign country shall be void in Nigeria, and any benefits accruing there from by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law in Nigeria.
2.—(1) Marriage entered between persons of same Gender shall not be solemnized in any place of worship either Church or Mosque in Nigeria.
(2) No marriage certificate issued to parties of same sex marriage in Nigeria.
3. Only marriage contracted between a man and a woman either under Islamic Law, Customary Law and Marriage Act is recognized as valid in Nigeria.
4.—(1) Persons that entered into a same gender marriage contract commit an offence and are jointly liable on conviction to a term of 3 years imprisonment each.
(2) Any persons or group of persons that witnesses, abet and aids the solemnization of a same gender marriage contract commits an offence and liable on conviction to —
(a) if an individual to a term of 5 years imprisonment or a group of persons to a fine of ₦2,000 or both,
(b) if a group of persons to a fine of ₦50,000 only.
5. The High Court of a State shall have jurisdiction to entertain matter arising from the breach of the provisions of this Bill.
6. In this Bill, unless the context otherwise requires—
“Marriage” here relates to a legal union entered between persons of opposite sex in accordance with the Marriage Act, Islamic and Customary Laws.
“High Court” to include High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“Same Gender Marriage” means the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.
7. This Bill may be cited as Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, 2011.
Explanatory Note:
This Bill seeks to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender, and witnessing same, and provided appropriate solemnization of the marriage penalties thereof.