Nigeria passes law against gay relationships

Bill introduces long jail terms for gay marriage, public displays of same-sex relationships and belonging to gay groups.

Last updated: 13 Jan 2014 16:35

Amnesty International has warned that the law could have “catastrophic” consequences for Nigeria’s gays [Reuters]
Nigeria has outlawed gay marriage, public displays of same-sex relationships, and belonging to gay groups with the passing of a law that has sparked international condemnation.

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.

“More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people.”

Reuben Abati, presidential spokesman

“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.

“More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people,” he added.

“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.”

International condemnation 

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.

“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.

Nigeria is a highly religious society, with its 170 million people roughly divided in half between Christians and Muslims, though a significant number are also believed to follow regional religions.

The anti-gay law follows similar legislation in Uganda that was condemned by the US president, Barack Obama, as “odious”. South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu compared it to apartheid.


Nigeria has now fallen in step with another African country, Uganda, in their determination to outlaw recognition of same-sex relationships. The reason for this, explains President Goodluck Johnathan is that “More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people”. There can be no question that many people in Africa, missionised by English Victorian missionaries, have never taken on board the fact that Western society has moved on from antiquated understandings of gender and biological aspects of sexuality.

Consequently, the law changes that have already been made in Western democratic countries have reflected this reality in their openness to the fact that some people have to live with intrinsically same-sex attraction. This is no longer considered a criminal offence, to be punished with full severity of the law, but rather an aspect of human biology and social difference that requires to be accepted and treated with the same dignity as any other aspect of human behaviour.

A bright light in the African continent is presently being seen in the treatment of homosexual people in South Africa; whose one-time Anglican Archbishop of Capetown, the Most Revd. Desmond Tutu has been at the forefront of education towards his country’s understanding of gender and sexuality issues, in ways that put the Anglican Archbishops of Uganda and Nigeria to shame.

The cultural differences between the Provinces of Uganda and Nigeria and others of the GAFCON Provinces – whose advocacy of criminalisation of Gays is totally at odds with the western Provinces of the Communion – and the rest of the Churches of the Communion would now seem to indicate the necessity of a parting of the ways – in formal relationships at the Lambeth Conference level. One wonders how long Canterbury, and the rest of us in the Anglican Communion, will be able to live with the oppositional politics of institutional homophobia that has so divided the Churches of the Communion on this issue.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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