Africa · news features

Nigeria Anti gay law bill :14 year sentence? What do some actually think?

photo Earlier this month, Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan passed a new legislation in Nigeria. The bill introduces a 14 year prison sentence for anyone in a same sex relationship, and anyone in supports of gays, or same sex associations, organisations and clubs could face up to 10 years imprisonment. Civil union was already illegal in Nigeria, but this new law brings penalties for anyone belonging in the other categories, such as gay rights activists, it also brings longer prison sentences for anyone who appears to be in a same-sex relationship and  bans any form of gay organisations, as stated previously. Despite the country’s prominent religious conflicts, and divisions between Christians and Muslims in the North, Nigeria still remains a religious country rich in culture and traditions. So it is fair to say that the new law against homosexuality was well- received by the majority of Nigerians. A few days after the anti gay law was adjusted, one of the interesting things I have realised by speaking to some of the Nigerians on the subject, is the fact that the legislation is somehow observed as a ‘win or lose situation’, it is as if many believe that if this law was not activated, same-sex relationships in Nigeria and homosexuality would somehow be acceptable. Even though the union of same-sex relationships was already illegal, some believe that this new law makes it official and ultimate. photo-6 A mass Communications postgraduate student i interviewed said ” It’s a good thing, Nigerians should never permit homosexuality.”  Out of curiosity, I went on to ask if she believed the prison sentences were justifiable and if it was the right thing to impose, unsure, she replied  “I don’t know.” This triggered something in my mind  ‘What do supporters of the new anti-gay law bill actually think of the actual punishment and the 14 year prison sentence against the main offenders? Do they all agree with it?’ When tapping on this particular aspect, the answers and opinions i received after varied. The sentences accompanied with the crimes may seem like nothing much compared to the stoning and the lashes facing offenders in the North,under the Islamic Sharia Law. But even so, is the 14 year prison sentence the best way to go against the offenders found to belong in ‘illegal ‘relationships? The rest of this article will look at the different views of some of the Nigerians i spoke to, who were mainly of Christian religion. It will also focus on the different aspects that may come up with the new legislation now in place. photo-5 “I support the law, but what are they going to learn behind bars??… Someone might even kill them in the prison, it could turn into a big issue, i don’t think that will solve the case.” – Kelechi 24- Kelechi who is currently a university student in the United Kingdom, came from Nigeria not long ago to follow her masters, she told me that back in Nigeria, she had a friend who because of low self esteem issues and finding herself ‘ugly’ and less pretty than other girls, started to spend more time with males instead of female friends, which ultimately changed the way she interacted and affected her preferences. Kelechi believes that there could also be occasions when a man becomes gay out of personal choice and past struggles: ” Girls kept breaking their hearts in the past.” Her concern is also what may happen once the offenders get inside prison. She believes homosexuality is an addiction and the people needs help and counselling, before actually being put behind bars. As Nigeria is a country respective of traditions and culture, she personally thinks that there should be a private meeting between the police, the suspect and the guardian or parent, as a form of warning and second chance before taking matters further. Anyway, Kelechi was not the only person who thought counselling should come first. A woman in her 30’s, told me that what she thinks is needed is :  “rehabilitation, rehabs, but there are not such things in Nigeria.”  And Blessing, who is a bio-medical student at a university thinks there should be “different cases and surveillance.” She believes that there should be different approaches depending on the individuals. Some offender(s) should be put on surveillance and strong maintenance, If after a while, the person is back in their old ways, she believes then. they should face the original process. Presidential Spokesman, Reuben Abati once said that the law “reflects the religious and cultural preferences of the Nigerian people.”  photo-6 One person i interviewed believes that in order for the sentences to be effective as it reflects the opinions and views on most Nigerians around the country, during the prison sentences there should be a religious leader or a counsellor often visiting the jails, in order for the offenders to change and at least learn something once their sentences ends. However, not everyone shared those views  Hope, who studies International Business Management said that because of this new legislation now in place , for the first time  she feels that “Nigeria has a voice.”  Medical student Blessing also strongly believes that the sentences are right appropriate for Nigerians who choose to continue their illegal acts, she believes that in Nigeria, when it comes to this case a person will not be arrested based on mere assumptions. She said: “In Nigeria, people in a same sex relationship would look obvious together, as these people are not prominent in the country.” Pastor C. who shared the same views  also said “Even though it wasn’t legal for same-sex couples to live in civil partnership and get married, people were still getting together in hiding.” He believes that now that it’s a crime and there are sentences that follows, nobody would dare to go against it. A young woman also told me “This legislation is to scare them, it’s a good thing. Now in Nigeria no one would be proud to say ‘ I’m gay’ [and go on to promote]” Under this new legislation, President GoodLuck Jonathan is facing extreme pressure from oppositions, something I believe the president was ready for. A survey done in 2013, found that 98% of Nigerians believed homosexuality should not be accepted in the society. Now, in 2014, why a controversy if the president had taken an initiative based on the thinking of the majority of Nigerians who voted for him as  president? Do people outside the country or even the minority have the right to disagree on an initiative taken for the majority? photo-3 Many would agree that Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan has shown a bright example by staying true to the people’s traditions and values,  but there are those even if happy with the legislation against same- sex relationships  believes there should be careful steps taking for this particular crime such as Blessing and Kelechi thinks so, and others who agree with the new law as well as the sentences put against the offenders, like Pastor C and Hope. However, there are also those who disagree with the new anti gay law bill system as a whole. One thing is for sure, in all situations, peace is key!  Thanks for reading! … 72dd24087b667a919483fd102476aee4

Advertisements