Just a day after France celebrated the nuptials of its first gay newlyweds, lawmakers in Nigeria have passed a bill banning same-sex marriage with steep penalties for offenders. The sweeping legislation, which also outlaws gay rights organizations and public displays of affection between gay people, was passed unanimously by the Nigerian House of Representatives on Thursday and is now awaiting President Goodluck Jonathan’s signature.
Homosexuality is already illegal under Nigerian law. The existing discriminatory legislation, along with the intense social stigma surrounding homosexuality across the country, has hardly inspired a clamor by gay couples petitioning to get married. Quite the opposite. That this bill would even be a legislative priority given these circumstances indicates that, once again, anti-gay legislation is being pushed forward for political point scoring. The tactic is a tried and true one, most recently used to great effect by the governments of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
And Jonathan’s government– which has been on the defensive lately— desperately needs all of the domestic good will it can muster given its shambolic handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north. However, even the passage of legislation with as broad domestic appeal as this most recent anti-gay bill has will likely not be enough to mitigate the outcry over Nigeria’s mounting security woes. And with international condemnation already piling on, the move looks ready to become just another headache for Jonathan.