Nigeria_gaypride_620x350Nigeria’s House of Representatives last Thursday voted to pass a bill banning same-sex marriage and introducing a number of other anti-gay laws.

The bill, passed in the Senate in 2011, carries 14-year jail sentences for same-sex couples who marry, and ten-year sentences for witnesses and those helping same-sex couples to get married.

Ten-year jail sentences are also faced by anyone who establishes or participates in groups advocating for gay rights, and same-sex couples caught in a “public show” of affection.

The House approved the bill unanimously and without discussion, sending it to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to approve.

Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission Chidi Odinkalu said the bill would likely be challenged in the Nigerian court if it is signed into law.

Representatives from a number of human rights groups have called the bill a publicity stunt, claiming it is likely Nigerian politicians are reacting to mounting pressure from Western governments for the country to improve the rights of LGBTI people.

Heads of state including British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have previously expressed concern over similar legislation, with Cameron threatening to cut foreign aid to countries who enact anti-gay legislation.

The bill could also have a negative impact on US aid funding for Nigerian groups who combat HIV/AIDS in the country. Some of those funded programs specifically target gay and lesbian people; such programs would likely become illegal if the new law comes into effect.

LGBTI people face open discrimination in Nigeria, where homosexual activity has been illegal since British colonial rule. The country’s majority Christian and Muslim population are united in their opposition to homosexuality.

In January this year Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Lagos made headlines with his claim that same-sex marriage could wipe out humanity within the next 20 years.

Anti-gay laws exist in a number of African nations, including Uganda, which attracted global outrage at its proposed “Kill the Gays” bill in 2009. South Africa legalised same-sex marriage in 2006, but lesbians in particular face violence and discrimination outside the country’s urban areas.

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