In a move that has ignited international outrage, Nigeria’s president signed into law a measure that outlaws same-sex marriage as well as public displays of gay relationships.
President Goodluck Jonathan said that that decision to sign the bill came after recognizing that it reflected the attitudes of Nigerians on homosexuality.
"More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people," said Reuben Abatim, a spokesman for the president.
"I think that this law is made for a people and what [the] government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment,” he said.
The law also makes it a crime for Nigerians to belong to gay organizations or to participate in activities in gay clubs, with a penalty of up to 14 years in jail.
"Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognized as valid in Nigeria," the law states.
Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian president to reconsider the action and reject the order, saying it could lead to “catastrophic” consequences for the country’s gay citizens.
Nigeria, which has a population of 170 million people and is Africa’s most populous country, is a deeply religious society with strong Christian and Muslim citizens.
The action on the part of Nigeria and its president is not uncommon among African nations. Last year, the Senate in Liberia passed a bill strengthening the law against homosexuality. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that she would not sign a bill supporting it.
Nigeria’s action comes after a similar law was enacted in Uganda. That law was condemned by President Obama, who called it “odious.” It was also criticized by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who compared it with his country’s one-time apartheid laws.
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(Photo: Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters)