Do You Know Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Law?

Do You Know Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Law?

“I have a question I want to ask about Nigeria’s Same Sex (Marriage) Prohibition Law. For those who’ve gone through it and properly deduced its legal ramifications.

What EXACTLY does that law prosecute?

I know simply coming out of the closet and identifying as gay doesn’t make you a defaulter of the law. So what would you do that’ll make you liable to prosecution? If for instance, it comes out that you are in a gay relationship, are you prosecutable? If perhaps as a celebrity, you come out and then start flaunting a boyfriend, does that make you prosecutable?

I’m asking because I’m wondering, apart from the fear of being the crosshairs of homophobic Nigerians, is there any legal concern why a Nigerian living in Nigeria cannot come out and own his/her relationship? Like, has anyone here actually studied the law to know what, distinctly, it allows and doesn’t allow?

I haven’t. So I’m asking.

What exactly does the antigay law prosecute?”

I made the update above in a Facebook gay group I’m in, hoping to get some enlightenment, and below are some of the opinions that were shared in the comments section.

BAIN: Caught in the act or practise sodomy, or having marital ties with a member of the same sex. So if you are out, it’s clear you engage in the act, so yea, you can be persecuted. If you have a boyfriend and it is public, like on a celebrity level, you can be prosecuted. You can’t prove that the two of you don’t practise sodomy especially when your relationship is that public. But what do I know.

UCHE: I’m glad you finished with “What do I know” because your interpretations are sweeping and scary.

HENRIE: I know “public display of same sex amorous relations” is proscribed. This, of course, is vague. But the emphasis, still, is on it being public.

VHAGAR: I’ve read it properly. It’s even written down in my organizer because I used it to win LGBT arguments when the law was newly signed. 1) Gay marriage or civil unions = 14 years. This was swift anti-Obama backlash. 2) Register, operate or participate in gay clubs, gay societies, gay organizations = 10 years. This might potentially even be used to target NGOs even though I hope not. 3) Direct or indirect show of same sex amorous relationships = 10 years. Vague but sadly in a way that could hurt the defendant more than the prosecutor in my opinion.

The central problem, as I came to learn in the arguments, is not necessarily this law. It is that it built on another anti-gay bill in the constitution which could potentially cause people to be arrested for just publicly identifying as gay. I never did find that bill. That’s the one the lawyers need to help us find, if it exists.

HENRIE: Not to forget that states are said to have their laws too whose specifics we don’t know.

VHAGAR: That too. I heard that is true for Northern States. Do Southern states have as well?

HENRIE: They do, Southeast especially.

COP: The laws for the Sharia Northern states are outrageous – death for males and up to fifty lashes for females.

VHAGAR: I know that. What I didn’t know was that southern states had special laws at all. I’ve been trying to browse on that.

COP: I’m not aware of that either. The federal law on homosexuality is adopted in the south, as far as I know.

HENRIE: It was in this group that a lawyer made a post about someone being charged and bailed under a homophobic law in a southeastern state, I think it was Anambra.

TONIE: Vhagar, the constitution does not contain any provision against same sex unions, especially when you look at Section 37 which guarantees the right to privacy. How what two consenting male or female adults decide to do in the privacy of their homes affects the government and the country at large, I’ll never understand.

VHAGAR: The provision against same sex unions was added by Jonathan in this bill before it became law. It’s a 14-year penalty for same sex marriages or civil unions

HENRIE: But that wasn’t in the constitution, Vhagar.

TONIE: It wasn’t Jonathan that added them. The provisions were made by the legislature. Jonathan’s job was to sign the bill into law. Criminal laws of southern states are usually modeled after the criminal code, while in the North, their laws are modeled after the penal code, and laws in the criminal and penal code are quite archaic. There are no special laws against same sex unions, because most states hardly, if ever, amend their laws. The only state that has been proactive in amending its various laws is Lagos State, and at the moment, Lagos State does not have any special law in place against same sex unions.

HENRIE: Don’t many of those archaic laws include vague prohibitions against homosexual relations, just like the criminal code does?

TONIE: That’s why I said they are modeled after the criminal code. It’s basically copy and paste in almost all the states.

HENRIE: Yet they are existing laws in those states, aren’t they?

TONIE: Yes they are.

BLOOM: The law has no provision for emotions. Either you have sexual relation with the same sex or not. To admit you’re gay is to admit homosexual intercourse

UCHE: Does it really? So all these people that say homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria are right? You know the law well enough to know this?

BLOOM: My point is, arguing the “I am homosexual but not into the act” in a law court would be extremely difficult. The law went as far as banning gay societies and even organizations their sustenance and meetings! So how do you defend your homosexual nature under such a law? Like I said – and I should rephrase – the law doesn’t recognize feelings being that it doesn’t see homosexuality as a feeling but an act.

FRANCIS: Bloom, you’re off point. The law doesn’t criminalize being gay. If it does, the police would have made mad money with the likes of Onyx, Bobrisky and co.

BLOOM: That’s because no one has dragged them to a court.

UCHE: I believe when Bobrisky was arrested and Nigerians on social media were baying for his blood, a lawyer came out to publicly say he can’t be prosecuted for admitting he’s gay.

LEGAL KOBOKO: To answer this question more directly, I think we have to break it down like this:

1) The challenge is not just with the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. The Penal Code applicable in Northern Nigeria and the Criminal Code applicable in Southern Nigeria are all well and alive. They are like different guns pointing at the same target.

2) The Criminal Code penalizes/punishes all sexual activities between males.

3) Being in a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex raises the presumption of sexual contact between both of you. And this presumption can lead to conviction in a court of law and you can go to jail for it. So, flaunting your boyfriend/girlfriend outside the gay community can lead to some legal complications and headaches.

4) One very wired thing about the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act is in its definitions of “Same-Sex Marriage”.  It defines same sex marriage as cohabitation between people of the same sex. Read for yourselves: “Same sex marriage means the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.”

Who determines the purpose of the cohabitation? The police? The prosecutor? The court? The defendant? It doesn’t get more wired and biased than this, especially when the Marriage Act doesn’t recognize cohabitation between opposite sexes as valid marriages.

5) What point 4 above tells you is simple: living together with your partner is potentially dangerous.

6) No one can be prosecuted merely for coming out as a gay person in Nigeria. Being gay is not illegal. Even if you say you have sex with guys, that’s still not illegal because the law punishes particular sexual acts between males which must be proved to have happened between specific individuals on a particular date and venue.

***

And on and on the conversations went. And so, it began to dawn on me that we, the minority targeted by this law, are – generally speaking, of course – about as knowledgeable about the SSMPA as the ignorant Nigerians using it to target us.

So I have brought it here for some enlightenment from KDians. We need to know, lest we continue to perish for a lack of knowledge. What exactly do we understand about our rights as LGBT individuals and the legal boundaries of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law?

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8 Comments

  1. Kritzmoritz
    February 10, 14:55 Reply

    I am unable to read a lot of the comments in the article because they based on an embarrassing level of ignorance. The only takeaway I want you to go with this comment is that nigeria has no law againstsexual identity had

  2. Manach
    February 10, 16:00 Reply

    Somebody was even saying there’s a “bill in the constitution”.
    Can’t wrap my head around such ignorance as displayed.
    The SSMPA is just that,same sex marriage prohibition. It has very little to nothing to do with sexual identity.

  3. Absalom
    February 10, 22:47 Reply

    “The law does not criminalise sexual identity.” — Uhm, is that supposed to make us feel better, thankful?

    Do we really believe that, in the eyes of the law, AND in the eyes of “culture” (which was used to defend the law), that there is a difference between the act and the identity?

    A law that parades itself as a marriage-prohibition act YET went ahead to have a problem with public displays and gay bars/organisations?? Like you can’t even open a gay hangout without risking 10 years in jail.

    A law that even pokes its nose into your living arrangement with another adult!

    If the police suspects that someone you live with is a sexual partner, wouldn’t it be well within their job description to question you?

    Are we really saying we don’t know the ultimate aim of this law is to invalidate and “eradicate” queer people?

    All anti-gay laws are an attack on the gay identity. All. From Russia to Uganda. They are messages from society that it finds our presence uncomfortable and wishes we’d just go away. . .somehow.

    So me, I don’t understand what we’re debating.

    • Francis
      February 11, 07:40 Reply

      We are debating loop holes in the silly law

    • DeadlyDarius
      February 11, 16:45 Reply

      Me sef no understand. Am I supposed to leap for joy over perceived ‘loopholes’?

  4. Francis
    February 12, 07:59 Reply

    Those of us who are interested in the interpretation just want to know how best to navigate staying not straight married and dating the same sex. That’s all. The rest, as you were and best wishes ???

  5. Gaia
    February 12, 11:39 Reply

    But at Least we now know that if we find ourselves in a situation of someone trying to out us (blackmail) or in similar situations, we still can defend ourselves in that regards…. so last last, the debate still dey helpful.

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