The Nigeria Senate on Tuesday approved
a bill that would criminalize gay marriage in Africa's most populous
nation, the AP reported.
The proposed legislation prescribes a
fourteen year jail term for a person who enters the contract of
marriage with a member of the same sex. A person – or group of
persons – who witnesses, abets and aids the solemnization of a gay
marriage may receive up to ten years imprisonment or a fine of 5,000
naira, about $32 in a country where the average daily income is $3.
Those jail terms have increased over the bill's initial penalties of
three years for the gay couple and five years for witnesses.
During debate on the Senate floor, some
lawmakers called for even harsher penalties for being gay.
“Such elements in society should be
killed,” Senator Baba Dati said.
Gay sex – and by extension marriage –
is already criminal in Nigeria. A person convicted of violating
“carnal knowledge against natural order” faces the death penalty
in areas under Sharia Islamic Law or up to 14 years in prison.
Lawmakers also brushed aside
international criticism of the legislation.
“Anybody can write to us, but our
values are our values,” Senate President David Mark said. “No
country has a right to interfere in the way we make our laws.”
The bill's sponsor, Senator Domingo
Obende, has previously argued that the law was necessary to protect
children: “With the legalization of same-sex marriage, every school
in Nigeria would be required to teach that this perversion is the
moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”
“Instead of providing for father and
mother, the advent of same-sex marriage will create millions of
motherless and fatherless children and this is morally wrong.”
The bill now heads to the House of
Representatives, where it is expected to be approved.