Anti-gay marriage bill polarises debate in Nigeria

Tue Nov 1, 2011 2:27pm GMT

* Nigeria latest African nation to crack down on gay citizens

* Gay rights campaigners speak at senate hearing

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Nigerian legislators started hearings this week on a bill that would criminalise same-sex marriage and could make it punishable by five years in jail.

On Monday the senate opened debate on the bill proposed by a national assembly committee. The body is expected to vote on it in the next couple of weeks.

Africa's most populous nation is the latest on the continent seeking to tighten up laws against homosexuality, angering human rights groups and leading Western countries like Britain to threaten a withdrawal of foreign aid.

"(A) marriage contract entered between persons of the same gender is hereby prohibited in Nigeria," reads a version of the bill published on the senate website.

"Any persons or group that witnesses ... that aids the solemnisation of a same sex marriage contract commits an offence and is liable to a term of 5 years imprisonment .."

Under existing federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, although in some northern states practising Islamic Sharia law it carries the death sentence.   Continued...

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