Richard Branson is speaking out against
a proposed bill in Nigeria that would criminalize gay marriage in
Africa's most populous nation.
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 Nigerian Senate overwhelmingly
approved the bill last week, and some lawmakers called for even
harsher penalties for being gay: “Such elements in society should
be killed,” Senator Baba Dati said.
The 61-year-old Branson, best known for
his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies, including Virgin
Atlantic Airways and Virgin Records, described the bill as “sad,
repressive and cruel” in a post
at his blog.
“Too sad to comprehend that Nigeria
are passing a law in this day and age to put gay people in prison
just for being gay,” the British tycoon – said to be the 4th
richest person in the UK – wrote.
“Like everyone else in society, gay
people have an enormous amount to offer and Nigeria should embrace
them not prosecute them,” he added.