HRC Blog

Nigeria Outlaws Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Organizing

Post submitted by Jane WothayaThirikwa, HRC Global Engagement Fellow

Yesterday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which criminalizes same-sex marriage and relationships.  The law bans same-sex marriage, and openly gay and lesbian Nigerians could face prison sentences of up to 14 years for engaging in same-sex “amorous relationships.”  Any person involved in same-sex ceremonies, moreover, including guests, could be jailed for 10 years.

Additionally, any person who supports or registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations directly or indirectly, including their sustenance, is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.

The law is particularly harsh because Nigerian law already punishes consensual same-sex activity. Moreover, twelve (out of 36) Nigerian states – which have incorporated Sharia law into the legal system –punish homosexual acts with death sentences.

The law passed in May, but President Jonathan delayed signing the bill.  President Jonathan’s office said yesterday that the president signed the bill because it was consistent with the attitudes of most people towards homosexuality in the West African nation. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States was deeply concerned by the enactment of the law, which “dangerously restricts” freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.  “People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality," said Kerry. "No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.”

The criminalization of same-sex conduct and increasing homophobia in many African countries has created an environment of fear among Africa’s LGBT community and allies.  Last month, the Ugandan parliament passed an anti-homosexuality bill that punishes "aggravated homosexuality" with life imprisonment.  The world community is waiting to see if Uganda’s president signs that bill into law.

HRC strongly condemns the newly-signed Nigerian law, and we will work hard with partners around the world to ensure that Uganda’s bill never becomes law.

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