Nigeria has been debating the tense subject of homosexuality and the boundaries that should follow this choice of orientation since 2006. The subject was never considered a national priority and has been met with a mix of confusion and encouragement. The country has been in a state of flux about whether to ban gay marriage, but now President Goodluck Jonathan is faced with making a decision on the issue of whether it is right to restrict an individual’s choice not only to be gay, but to be allowed to be openly gay in public spaces. The House of Commons unanimously approved the decision to sign the gay marriage bill on 6 June, but is it fair to make this a punishable offence or is it an infringement of Nigeria’s basic human rights?

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Photo: IPS News

It is outrageous to imprison someone for up to 14 years for exerting their freedom to choose who they spend their life with. It should be left to each individual to decide whom they have a connection with. The new laws are a sickening and should be seen for the scandalous means of victimisation they are. They represent horrifying steps backwards towards dictatorship. However, the laws that the Nigerian government are trying to implement don’t end there. They’re also threatening to outlaw groups that actively campaign for the homosexual community in Nigeria. So not only are homosexuals losing any element of free choice, the government is actively deterring support for their cause.

The EU has warned that they are opposed to this abysmal discrimination. They advocate that governments should take a neutral standing, neither promoting nor repressing, but allowing people to have freedom of expression. In Nigeria the sodomy laws cause gay Nigerians to live underground lifestyles. An even more chilling thought is that in some places the death penalty is still used in response to a person being uncovered as a homosexual.

One Nigerian writer, Ayo Sogunro, recognises that ‘Public opinion should be left for the public and legal system’ and that one ‘should never, compulsorily, substitute a person’s private opinion with that of the public’. If Nigeria succeeds in achieving a ban on homosexuality, what will this mean for the line between morals and laws and what other countries will follow in its footsteps?

It is heart-warming to know that UK citizens are fighting a cause so far away from home, as they call for the UK government to intervene and aid Nigeria in its fight for freedom of expression. The Kaleidoscope Trust, a Gay rights charity, have voiced their opinion and called upon President Jonathan not to sign the anti-gay bill. Look out for petitions and get your voice heard!