The Nigerian SSMB 2013 was passed by the house of representatives on the 30th May. It is now in the hands of President Goodluck Jonathan who must decide whether or not to sign it into law. The US and UK have both stated that passage of the Bill would compromise some aspects of aid, possibly HIV/AIDS funding but I doubt threats from either are substantial enough to persuade him. It boils down to which pressure he feels the most – from his own government and lawmakers or from the foreign donors remembering that countries such as China are no doubt ready to fill in any financial gaps arising from loss of US/UK aid. How much will there is for the passage of the Bill is not clear considering it has taken nearly two years between the 2011 Senate vote and last Thursdays lower house vote. The original Bill dates back to 2006 and there are some differences in the wording but of most concern is the “Offences and Penalties” section which was originally 5 years and has now been upped to 14 years for civil union or marriage and 10 years for registering a ‘gay’ organisation or shows affection in public plus 10 years for witness too or aid and abet. The Bill is also far more precise in its interpretation of marriage which includes civil unions as follows….
means any arrangement between persons of the same sex to live together as sex partners, and shall include such descriptions as adult independent relationships, caring partnerships, civil solidarity pacts, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, registered partnership, significant relationship, stable unions etc
Whether it was the intention or not, the wording of the Bill reflects an admission that same sex relationships are ‘caring’ ‘significant’ ‘stable’ partnerships and their decision to extend criminalisation of such relationships is cruel and and assault on the dignity of all people irrespective of their sexual orientation to decide how they conduct their intimate life in public and in the domestic sphere. It now remains for Nigerian and African civil society and human rights orgnasations to add their voice in support of GLBTIQ rights in Nigeria and across the continent.