Nigeria: President Must Veto Draconian Bill Criminalizing Free Speech, Assembly

Senate Should Release Information on “Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition)” Bill

(Johannesburg – 19 December 2013) According to its website, on Tuesday the Nigerian Senate voted in favor of a consolidated bill merging two equally draconian bills criminalizing peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and speech, said the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today. Sources from Nigeria note that the Senate has yet to release the exact wording of the new bill, which they say has been sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for assent or veto.

Nigeria’s Senate originally passed a version of the misleadingly named “Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition)” bill in November 2011, while the House of Representatives passed a different version in July 2013.

Both bills criminalize not only same-sex unions, broadly speaking, but also apply harsh jail sentences to anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly depicting homosexual relations in public or who is in any way linked to the operations of organizations advocating for the human rights of those in same-sex relationships. The main difference between the bills is the length of the prison sentences imposed.

Sexual relations between men are already criminalized in Nigeria and subject to a 14-year prison sentence under Section 214 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act. Some argue that sexual relations between women are equally covered by the penal code’s prohibition of gross indecency, adding to the legal uncertainty.

“Even as we are seeking clarity on what version of a homophobic and most likely unconstitutional bill the Senate passed on Tuesday, this much is clear: Nigerian politicians are once again scapegoating LGBT individuals in a manner that is likely to facilitate violence and abuse,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of IGLHRC. “This is not only an outrage, it is counter to Nigeria's human rights obligations and anathema to human decency.”