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Nigeria: Anti-gay bill passed, awaits president’s signature

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Nigerian lawmakers approved an anti-gay measure today (May 30) that bans gay marriage, prevents the formation of organizatiions supporting gay rights, and establishes prison sentences of up to 14 years for offenders, The Miami Herald reports.

The bill, passed by a voice vote, now heads to President Goodluck Jonathan to sign into law, but the reports notes that it is unclear whether he will sign it. 

After the bill made it through Nigeria's Senate in November 2011, it slipped off the radar before resurfacing May 30 for a reading in the House of Representatives. The Herald says the bill presented seems to be similar to the one that came out of the Senate, but if there are differences between the two versions, lawmakers will have to sort those out before Jonathan is able to sign it into law. The report says a copy of the approved measure has not yet been obtained. 

Gay sex has been criminalized in Nigeria since colonial rule, and there is open discrimination against gays. 

Gay Star News (GSN) quotes Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi as saying that nobody was expecting the bill's passage. "The time the vote was supposed to happen was November last year and they didn’t do it," he told GSN. "There has been lots of political instability in the last few days. It was Democracy Day in Nigeria and there are lots of questions about the legitimacy of the president and the House of Representatives. It is a shocking way for them to try to get through those political problems by passing this bill."

Alimi told GSN he fears that the bill's passage is a precursor to approval of anti-gay measures in other African countries, including Uganda and Sierra Leone.