Since the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011 [SSMB] by the Nigerian Senate hundreds of online and twitter comments have been made supporting the Bill. By far the majority of these comments have defended the Bill on the basis that it only concerns marriage between two people identifying as the same sex; that as a national law it stands outside of international treaties to which Nigeria is a signature. As I pointed out previously, this is a deceit by the supporters of the Bill in both houses as same-sex relationships are already criminalised and obviously, so is marriage between persons of the same-sex. The two questions we should be asking are: what is the real purpose of this Bill apart from whipping up moral hysteria against a largely invisible 1-3 million Nigerians? and how will it impact on everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation.
In addition to targeting people who identify as lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming, the SSMB will:
Prevent and or call into question two people of the same sex living or staying together, whether lovers, friends, co-workers or acquaintances,.
Will prohibit any display of friendship and or affection between two people of the same sex. Any form of touching, holding hands, embracing, and even looking could very well result in a 10 year prison sentence.
Will prohibit organisations and individuals who advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, health rights particularly those concerned with HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment the majority of whom are heterosexual persons. Will also prohibit any accused person from receiving legal representation or support.
Will require family, friends, work colleagues to report to the police anyone suspected of being involved or supporting anyone thought to be either engaged in same-sex relationships or who is believed to be a LGBT person. Thus everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation becomes vulnerable to vindictive accusation and vigilante summary “justice”!
The SSMB will particularly affect the poor unemployed and those on low incomes and will also compromise and restrict other rights such as:
freedom of assembly / association: – this can well include women only groups including religious based groups, student associations, reading groups and opens the doors for false-accusations and “witch-hunting” against individuals and groups.
freedom of speech/ expression: – the Bill can be used to censor and prosecute, all types of media from newspapers to radio to social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter as writers and photographers can be accused of publicising, promoting, supporting LGBT people or criticising the SSMB and or the government’s anti-LGBT policy.
Nigerians advocating the bill need to ask themselves, do they really wish to live in a society whereby millions of people live in fear of being outed, where millions are denied legal representation, the right to assemble, to free speech, to embrace their friends, to share a room with a friend for fear of prosecution?