Progress halted on same-sex bill in Nigeria

By staff writers
30 Mar 2007

The progress of a bill in Nigeria that that would impose brutal penalties on shows of affection between lesbian and gay people has been halted in the face of national elections in the country.

It has been suggested that the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006 which was debated on 22 March by the Nigerian House of Representatives may be lost if the Nigerian election takes place soon.

The Nigerian Federal elections are scheduled to be held on 21 April and the ceremonial opening of the new session of Parliament on May 29, 2007, which the constitution recognizes as the hand over date to a new government.

Allafrica.com reported on Sunday, 25 March 2007 that the House of Representatives would soon be prorogued but this has yet to be confirmed by other sources.

If the election takes place as timetabled however, the present House of Representatives will be officially dissolved in May and the handover to the new House will take place.

The present sitting of the House has finished. Politicians asked the panel of Human Rights which continues to meet, to go and review the bill again.

However Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN), a group of gay Christians in the country, say it is difficult to say categorically that the current House has been totally suspended because a lot of 'manoeuvring; is still taking place ahead of the election.

Nigerian Anglicans including Archbishop Akinola have faced international criticism from Christian leaders and human rights groups around the world for giving their backing to the bill.

The new measures would impose brutal penalties on all relationships, activism, advocacy, and shows of affection among lesbian and gay people. It would introduce criminal penalties for any public advocacy or associations supporting the rights of lesbian and gay people, as well as for same-sex relationships and marriage ceremonies.

"What we are hearing from CAN members in Anglican congregations in Nigeria is that the church leaders have been feeling big pressure on them and some are very angry because they expected the bill to be voted on prior to the end of this session. There are also rumours that money has exchanged hands, American money, and yet it has not proved easy for the Anglican Church leaders to push the bill through the House of Representatives. Corruption remains widespread at every level of Nigerian society" Changing Attitude in Nigeria said in a statement.

It is also theoretically possible for the next government to reintroduce the bill. But campaigners against the bill say this would be unlikely to happen in the first term when they would be trying to satisfy many different expectations. It remains a possibility that the bill could be reintroduced in the next government’s second term.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said: “Because of the continuing uncertainty, Changing Attitude Nigeria will not celebrate the defeat of the bill publicly until after May 29. We are quietly confident and feeling more happy, but there is still the potential for lobbying in favour of the bill to take place by the Church of Nigeria and for the Government to spring a surprise. However, if the Church was confident about the success of the bill, we think they would be issuing a confident public statement now, which they are not.”

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