The senate, on Tuesday, took a strong stand against same sex marriage in Nigeria in an all-in-favour debate on a bill prohibiting same sex marriage in Nigeria.
The bill, sponsored by Domingo Obende (ACN Edo State), is the first none executive bill to be discussed by the senate. It was first read at the senate on 13 July this year.
Debate over same sex marriage is growing across the world. While some countries have legalised it, others are considering adopting it and few conservatives have taken similar strong stands against it.
“We as a country need to act very fast for this trend not to find its way into our country,” said Obende. “Same sex marriage cannot be allowed on moral and religious grounds. The Muslim religion forbids it. Christianity forbids it and the African traditional religion forbids it. It should not be allowed because it will lead to a breakdown of the society.”
All senators that debated the bill at the Tuesday plenary accepted Obende’s line of argument. “It is morally and spiritually wrong and unacceptable,” said Oluremi Tinubu (ACN Lagos State).
Same sex marriage is loathed in most African countries and gay parties engage secretly for fear of being lynched if discovered. It is regarded as both spiritual and moral abomination.
Nigeria, however, has a sizeable number of gay couples, although not legally joined.
Penal Codes in Nigeria already prohibit same sex marriages or carnal knowledge against natural order in Nigeria. Homosexuality can land men up to 14 years in prison in the South and capital punishment for men in areas under Sharia Islamic Law.
In the past, proposals to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and severely punish convicts were promoted twice but failed each time.
Following demonstrations for same-sex marriages during the international conference on HIV/AIDS in 2005, the Federal Executive Council approved a law prohibiting same-sex marriage and sent it to the National Assembly for urgent action. That bill could not be heard before that term expired.
The United States State Department and 16 international human rights groups strongly condemned the bill, calling it a violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly guaranteed by international law as well as by the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and a barrier to the struggle against the spread of AIDS.
A similar bill also had come up in the House of Representatives last session, but the lawmakers failed to pass the bill after a group of camera shy gays stormed the National Assembly to register their dissatisfaction with that bill.
The senate, however, looks forward to passing the bill before the end the year. The bill prescribes three years imprisonment for couples convicted of same sex marriage and five years for any person that witnesses, abets and aides the solemnisation of same sex marriages.