A bill approved last week by the
Nigerian Senate that would criminalize gay marriage could jeopardize
Western aid for HIV/AIDS programs, the AP
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.
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.”
Africa's most populous nation has 3
million people infected with HIV – the continent's second highest
rate – according to the United Nations. Roughly 80 percent of
those infected are heterosexual.
“There are about 400,000 people on
anti-retrovirals in Nigeria at the moment and 95 percent of those are
paid for by donor funds,” Nigerian public health physician and
health blogger Chikwe Ihekweazu told the AP.
The U.S. government's President
Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) gives an average of $308
million a year to HIV groups. The UK government donates an average
of $31 million.
Lawmakers, backed by the public's deep
hostility to gay rights, have said threats of cutting off aid by
donor nations would not dissuade them.
The bill now heads to the House of
Representatives, where it is expected to be approved.