Gay Christians in Nigeria are urging international action against a new repressive law which is being backed by the Anglican church in the country.
The proposed law, that would impose brutal penalties on shows of affection between lesbian and gay people, or even on those who would advocate for lesbian and gay people, has already been condemned by more than 250 Christian leaders from the US, as well as the church in Canada and Christian in the UK. However, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria is giving it his support.
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.
The bill, entitled 'The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006', goes much further than the name suggests. The bill provides for five years' imprisonment to anyone who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex," "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage" or "is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private."
Any priest or cleric aiding or abetting such a union could be subject to the five-year prison term. The law would also prohibit adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals.
Homosexuality is already criminalized in Nigeria. Nigeria's criminal code penalizes consensual homosexual conduct between adults with 14 years' imprisonment. Shari'a penal codes in effect in northern Nigeria continue to punish 'sodomy' with the death penalty.
The “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006“ was debated on Thursday last week, by the Nigerian House of Representatives.
The version of the Bill presented is the original "Sani" version that was presented last March. No amendments have been made and the public hearing has not influenced the Bill in anyway say campaigners. The bill does not take into consideration the views of the Human Rights Committee of the House that the bill will create a fundamental abuse of human rights. The Committee is understood to be trying to block the Bill and the chair of the Committee reported that they are going to present a minority report. It is clear that no consensus has been reached on the content of the bill between certain of the house committees.
Changing attitude in Nigeria report that Archbishop Peter Akinola is said to be doing last minute lobbying of Anglicans in the House of Representatives and the Government to ensure the bill is voted on soon and passed into law.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN), said: "Changing Attitude Nigeria stands as a reminder to the world-wide Anglican Communion that the Church of Nigeria is promoting and supporting a bill which will erode the most basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
"Archbishop Peter Akinola has committed himself to the Windsor Report which commits him to the process of listening to LGBT people. If he is honest and serious about listening to LGBT members in his Province he must speak out now in condemnation of this bill and ensure that it is defeated.
"I am very worried because very few Nigerian LGBT activists are free to speak out in a country which already has repressive anti-gay legislation on the statute book. The bill is moving very fast and although some people think the bill will fall, the Church sponsors are not giving up and neither are we.
"Conservative Christians want to use Nigeria as an example to other African countries to demonstrate that anti-gay legislation can be passed which criminalizes all affection and activity between LGBT people.”