Nigeria's Anti-Homosexual Laws Also Apply to Tourists, Says Gov't

A bill passed in the Nigerian Senate last month that criminalizes same-sex unions and certain related activities would also apply to tourists, including those from the U.S., according to a government spokesman.

Political Adviser to the President Alhaji Ahmed Gulak told reporters Monday that Nigerians will not let their legislature be influenced by Western governments.

"This is Nigerian law; it is not American law and if you are an American and you come to Nigeria, you must subject yourself to our law and if you are caught violating this law or any other law, you will be prosecuted accordingly," Gulak said.

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According to the legislation, known as the Bill for an Act to Prohibit Marriage or Civil Union," only marriages contracted between a man and a woman either under Islamic Law, Customary Law or the Marriage Act is recognized as valid in Nigeria," according to the Senate's website.

In addition to prohibiting same-sex unions, the bill also targets "any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations."

Nigeria cites a devout religiousness – the country is split between Christians and Muslims – for its stance on homosexuality and support of the bill. The bill would reportedly punish homosexual acts, specifically same-sex unions, by up to 14 years in prison. Those convicted of aiding and abetting same-sex unions are reportedly subject to a 10-year imprisonment.

In most discussions of this bill, lawmakers have cited a detestation of American mores and culture, and hope that the ban on same-sex unions will help Nigeria carve a moral identity.

"If Americans like, they can go and be marrying themselves as men and women; that is their problem, that is their culture, but in Nigeria, our laws are that no same sex can marry; we have said no to same-sex marriage," Gulak said.

The bill is likely to pass through the Nigerian House before being sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, who has already stated his support of the measure. Lawmakers have claimed widespread public support for the bill.

"No community in this country supports same sex marriage. I have not had any community in Nigeria that supports gay or lesbianism or what have you. So, our laws are for our country and not for the Americans,” Gulak said.

Some lawmakers went farther with one senator saying during a debate on the bill that "such elements in society should be killed."

Those outspoken against the bill – and its subsequent ban on gay tourists – say it denies a segment of the population their basic human rights. The U.S. and U.K. governments have called for a revision of the bill and promised consequences – warnings Nigeria is not planning to heed.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission issued a statement condemning the Nigerian measure and calling into question the priorities of the West African country’s government.

"Within Nigeria there are overwhelming challenges regarding poverty eradication, access to basic health, and the right of all citizens to enjoy education. The question: Why is the Government of Nigeria targeting same-sex relationships as its area of focus?" the statement read.

Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have also weighed in, applauding the Senate for passing the ban on same-sex unions.

"We wish to strongly support the prohibition of same-sex union as an expression both of our cultural values as Nigerians and our religious belief as Christians," a recent statement from CBCN read. "Far from being a denial of the fundamental right of some Nigerians who would engage in it, such a prohibition protects our society from the usurpation of its right to moral health and cultural decency."

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