"I have never read a legislative text that violates so many universal human rights at once"1 Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commented on the Nigerian law against homosexuality. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) has been in force since 2014, since when homosexuals have been massively persecuted, not only by large sections of society but also by the Nigerian state.
In Nigeria, with the entry into force of the SSMPA in 2014, both homosexuality and support of homosexuals have become illegal. The Nigerian judiciary sentences homosexuals to prison terms of ten to 14 years, if they are caught in a homosexual act or suspected of homosexual contact (Section 5(2) of the SSMPA).
While homosexuals in the Christian south of Nigeria, where the SSMPA applies, risk prison sentences and social exclusion, they are threatened with the death penalty in the Muslim north: twelve northern Nigerian Muslim states are subject to Sharia law. Anyone caught here engaging in homosexual activities is sentenced to death by stoning.2
In addition to the United Nations, all human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House) also draw attention to the precarious situation of gays in Nigeria.3
Homosexuals are also ostracized in civil society in Nigeria. In a position paper on the situation of homosexuals in Nigeria, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs wrote that LGBT* "have to fear social isolation" and are "discriminated against".4 For many social groups, gays are therefore considered anti-African.
In Nigeria it is common that homosexuals hide their sexuality. Families and friends often put pressure on people and force weddings with people of the opposite sex. The Australian Foreign Office was able to confirm that young men in particular are often banned from their family accommodation after coming out.
Homosexuals in Nigeria also risk their jobs if their sexuality becomes known. Local non-governmental organizations have noted a significant increase in attacks against gays after the SSMPA came into force. The German Foreign Office explicitly warns gay tourists against travelling to Nigeria.5
1 ecoi.net: United Nations Human Rights Chief Denounces New Anti-Homosexuality Law In Nigeria
2 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 – Nigeria
3 „Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe“ – The Impact of Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act
4 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: DFAT Country Information Report Nigeria
4 Deutsches Auswärtiges Amt: Nigeria – Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise (Teilreisewarnung)
Text: Matthias Kirsch