More on Nigeria’s Terrible, Horrible Anti-Gay Anti-Human Rights Bill

A few days ago we told you about a bill in Nigeria that makes the co-habitation of same-sex couples punishable with up to 14 years in prison — and this is in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.  The new bill comes in the wake of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to withhold aid from countries discriminating against gays and lesbians, which is no small matter when you consider that the UK spends an average of $31 million dollars a year on HIV/AIDS programs in Nigeria.

The Associated Press reported on the far-reaching bill:

Under the proposed law passed by Senate this week, couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The bill also punishes the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly” with ten years in prison.

A newly added portion of the bill, leveling 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organizing, operating or supporting gay clubs, organizations and meetings, worries advocates in Nigeria. They fear the law could be used against groups providing aid for HIV and AIDS outreach programs that traditionally consider gay men as an at-risk group…

This bill would hugely impact the entire human-rights community of Nigeria, muzzling activists and outlawing support of those living with HIV and AIDS in a country with over 3 million people living with the disease according to the United Nations.  As Liz reported, World Aids Day was December 1st and AIDS activists have been speaking out about the devastating consequences of the legislation.

(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba) In this, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011 photo, Abosede Oladayo, 36, an AIDS activist living with HIV, speaks during an event to mark World Aids Day at the U.S Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.

CNN published the story “Why Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Bill Sickens Me” by Nigerian journalist Chude Jideonwo, who writes:

Today, I am ashamed to be Nigerian.. But it’s not because a gang of morally questionable legislators has forced through a piece of legislation that is both irrelevant and irresponsible..

It’s rather because, in a country burdened by a lethal mix of misplaced priorities, confused sense of culture and an ignorant electorate, this intolerance is in fact a popular decision..

Jideonwo notes that under the proposed legislation, even writing journalistic pieces such as this would be illegal. Already there are parts of northern Nigeria where gays and lesbians are at risk of being stoned to death.

Yesterday, a protest was held in front of the United States embassy to Nigeria in NYC and has delivered a petition of  60,000 signatures urging Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson not to sign the bill. President Obama has just today issued a memorandum specifically directing “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

Ultimately, even if this is framed as a reaction to Cameron’s decision, the responsibility falls squarely on the Nigerian government’s head. This bill demonstrates a blatant disregard for Nigeria’s own citizens, and even more alarmingly, punishes others who would speak out on their behalf. Nigeria is a country where GLBT people already live as criminals; hopefully, the bill that would make their lives even more dangerous to live can be stopped.

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Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 76 articles for us.


  1. My gf is Nigerian and this article makes me want to cry. It’s no wonder her parents are always trying to make her straight if this is the background they come from….. It’s all so sad!!! And I’m very grateful she now lives in the States for even more reasons!

  2. This is horrible…sometimes I get so wrapped up in the injustices of America that I forget how much harder it is for queers in different parts of the world.

  3. Thanks for this article, Jamie. This bill is just…guh I can’t even formulate an adequate response it’s so awful, so I appreciate that team autostraddle is always able to be more articulate than I am at these times.

    One thing that I wanted to point out just for clarity’s sake. As I understand it David Cameron hasn’t “decide[d} to withold aid from countries refusing to recognise same-sex marriage.” That would be a highly unusual position for him to take since we don’t currently recognise the right for same-sex couples to marry in the UK (only civil partnerships). What he has said is that human rights records with respect to gay people will be one of the things considered when directing international aid. So countries with appauling gay rights abuses, or who make homosexuality illegal, could, depending on other factors, very well be denied aid. So it’s still a very interesting consideration when thinking of Britain’s relationship with Nigeria, for the reasons you mentioned, but if this bill affects whether or not the UK continues giving aid to Nigeria it will probably be because of the really terrible human rights implications for LGBT people rather than the fact of not recognising same-sex cohabiting couples, or same-sex unions, per se. It might be a typo on your part, or I might be wrong, but that’s what I’ve got from the news coverage of the situation here.

    Anyway! Sorry about that- I really don’t mean to make this all about the UK or anything.

    • I feel you… usually I proclaim my Nigerian citizenship before my American, but not today. I actually had to call home to make sure that none of my relatives on the legislature voted for this (thinking of too many expletives to type out here) bill.

    • And THAT’S why I voted for her to win the Democratic nomination in ’08. Sigh.

      (Or perhaps I should say, one reason on a very long list…)

  4. This is just too horrible. My heart goes out to all the Nigerian LGBT folks and their allies right now.

  5. Where can you even start? There’s the LGBT portion of this (which is horrifying), and then it goes beyond that. If any of this actually passes would countries ACTUALLY stop giving Nigeria aid? And if they did, how massive would the consequences be? Would Nigeria do a 180 if it saw all it’s aid dry up? Or would the government not care and let it’s people suffer?

    This is just like, fucked up on multiple levels.

  6. And I thought DRoC was bad sigh… I think African countries/govts should find other things to do then oppress their own citizens. Oh wait! No that’s pretty much what they’re all about. Sad!

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