Lawmakers in Nigeria’s house of representatives affirm previous vote by senate. Bill becomes law if signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

nigeria-gaylaw

Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan presents his administration’s midterm report during Democracy Day in Abuja on May 29.

Lawmakers in Nigeria passed a bill yesterday banning gay marriage and outlawing anyone from forming organisations supporting gay rights, setting prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders.

Nigeria’s House of Representatives approved the bill in a voice vote, likely sending it immediately to President Goodluck Jonathan for him to potentially sign into law in Africa’s most populous nation.

Whether he will approve it remains unclear, and both the United States and the United Kingdom raised concerns over a measure that could put foreign funding for AIDS and HIV outreach programmes in jeopardy.

Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill in November 2011 and the measure quietly disappeared for some time before coming up in yesterday’s session of the House. Under previous versions of the proposed law, couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Other additions to the bill include making it illegal to register gay clubs or organisations, as well as criminalising the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.” Those who violate those laws would face a 10-year imprisonment as well.

While the bill read on Thursday during the House session appeared to be similar, The Associated Press could not immediately obtain a copy of the version lawmakers passed. If there are differences between the House and Senate versions, a joint committee of lawmakers will have to first iron out those differences before sending it to the president.

Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati did not immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Gay sex has been banned in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, since colonial rule by the British. Gays face open discrimination and abuse in a country divided by Christians and Muslims who almost uniformly oppose homosexuality. Across the African continent, many countries already have made homosexuality punishable by jail sentences.