Same-sex marriages and homosexual activities were officially banned by the senate in Nigeria on Tuesday, placing criminal penalties of up to 14 years in prison on same-sex relationships.
The bill will now move on to a house of representatives vote and if it passes, it will be signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Gay sex has been banned in Nigeria since it was under British colonial rule, but the UK is currently fighting hard against the bill. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that England will cut some of its aid to Nigeria if the bill passes, a threat that is slow to motivate Nigerian lawmakers.
If same-sex marriage could be termed as wrong by the creator who created us, then it is proper for us to abolish it in its entirety, Yunusa Tanko, National Secretary of the minority National Conscience Party and current vice president candidate, told Nigeria's The National.
The law prohibiting gay marriage is our own internal law and we expect other countries to understand that this is Nigeria and what is peculiar to our expectations, our needs and culture is what is referred to as law, he said, adding as far as we are concerned gay marriage will not help us. Those western countries should not feel dissapointed by our own law, rather they should strive to emulate us.
Other Nigerian critics have called Cameron's threat a neo-colonialist attempt to meddle into African politics. However, Nigeria, which is rich with oil (although the oil money is quite poorly distributed), receives little monetary aid from Great Britain. Nonetheless, Cameron feels that what money his government does send should not be sent without ethical stipulations.
This is something we raise continually and ... we're also saying that British aid should have more strings attached in terms of 'do you persecute people for their faith or their Christianity or do you persecute people for their sexuality?' Cameron said in a statement.
We don't think that's acceptable. So look, this is an issue where we want movement, we're pushing for movement, we're prepared to put some money behind what we believe.
Britain tried a similar ploy on Ghana earlier this month, but Ghana's President John Atta Mills refused to trade money for what he sees as his country's morality.
If passed, the new Nigerian bill will also impose penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment for any one who “witnesses, “aids” or “abets” same-sex relationships without reporting it.
This measure would target people on the basis of their identity, not merely their behaviour, and put a wide range of people at risk of criminal sanctions for exercising basic rights and opposing discrimination based purely on a person’s actual or presumed sexual orientation or gender identity, Amnesty International stated Tuesday.
Nigeria is one of nearly 40 African nations where homosexuality is against the law. Only 13 countries on the continent don't have laws specifically against homosexual relations.
Africa is fiercely conservative when it comes to homosexuality, in part thanks to the devout religious population, whether they be Christian or Muslim. Nigeria is split between these two religions, and about a dozen provinces are governed under sharia law -- the punishment for homosexuality in those regions is death.
Interestingly, lesbian relationships are legal in the states not under sharia law. This is not unique to Nigeria: in about six countries where gay relationships are banned, including Zimbabwe and Kenya, female homosexual relationships are legal.
South Africa is the only African country where same-sex activities, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption and gays in the military are legal.