Disturbing news from Nigeria. The president of Africa's most populous nation has defied international pressure and signed extreme anti-gay legislation that outlaws same-sex unions, "same-sex amorous relationships", public displays of same-sex relationships or homosexuality and bans pro-LGBT organizations, reports Al Jazeera.
President Goodluck Jonathan's spokesman, Reuben Abatim said on Monday that the president signed the bill because it was consistent with the attitudes of most people towards homosexuality in the west African nation. "I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law," Abati said, without specifying a date but adding that it happened earlier this month.
Amnesty International 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". It also warns that 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 will break the law. Punishment is up to 10 years in prison, it adds.
Sodomy is already outlawed under existing federal law in Africa's most populous nation. Twenty-four of Nigeria's 36 states punish same-sex acts with up to 14 years imprisonment. Twelve Islamic states in northern Nigeria have introduced Sharia law that has sentenced several gays to death. However, the death sentences have reportedly never been enforced and the sentences were commuted.
The new law is also expected to be extremely "popular" and should help President Jonathan's re-election campaign, adds The Guardian.
As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular. Jonathan is expected to seek re-election in 2015 but is under pressure after several dozen lawmakers and a handful of regional governors defected to the opposition in the past two months.
The legislation also bans same sex couples from living together, bans pro-LGBT websites or groups and prosecute their friends or human rights activists. Previous versions of the bill banned gays from meeting, living together, reading LGBT websites or even going out to dinner. The comprehensive anti-gay legislation was passed unanimously by Nigeria's House of Representatives in late May 2013. It later passed the Senate.
Prosecutions related to same-sex relations were generally rare in Nigeria—but there has been an increase in arrests and prosecutions since the introduction of comprehensive anti-gay legislation in parliament in 2007.
The legislature of the Katsina State reportedly also approved harsh anti-gay legislation in December. The bill approved by the Katsina State House of Assembly mandates a 14-year prison sentence for any man or woman convicted of same-sex relations. Seven youths aged 18 to 25-years-old were arrested on "suspicion of homosexuality" in neighboring Jigawa State in November.
Meanwhile: Two teenagers were arrested October 1 "on charges of homosexual activity and released on bail pending trial" in Osun State in the southwest, reports 76 Crimes. The "suspected homosexuals" are aged 18- and 19-years old and both pleaded not guilty.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is the only African nation that mandates equal marriage.
Some Background ...
NIGERIA: Katsina Approves Anti-Gay Legislation
NIGERIA: REPORT: Police Arrest "Gay Pastor"
NIGERIA: 3 Gay Men Stripped, Beaten by Mob
NIGERIA: Criticism After Actor Sentenced
Nigerian Actor Sentenced for "Unnatural Offences"
"Daily Sun" Warns "Homosexuals in Trouble"
NIGERIA: Activists Harassed During Testimony
Nigeria Advances Extreme Anti-Gay Bill
NIGERIA: Hearings Begin on Extreme Legislation
Nigerian Village Vows to "Stone Any Homosexual"
EU Considers Suspending Aid to Nigeria
Nigerian Legislators Vote to Ban Gay Marriages
EU: Level of Homophobia in Nigeria "Unacceptable"
Nigerian Mob Attacks Gay Activist
Nigerian Lynch Mob Storms Jail
Nigeria: 18 Gays Face Death Penalty
Nigerian Lesbian In Hiding After Reported Wedding
Nigeria's Homophobia Threatens Bid for Games
Nigeria One Step Closer to Outlawing Gays