Decriminalizing Homosexuality in Nigeria

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Introduction to the Policy Issue

Homosexuality is a form of sexual orientation in which a person is sexually or romantically attracted to another person who is of the same sex. The issues related to the acts of homosexuality have emerged in the recent years with many people freely disclosing their sexual orientation without fear (Endong & Vareba, 2015). Just like in most of the European countries and the United States of America, most of the African countries are currently having various organizations that fight for the rights of the homosexuals. The rise in the number of homosexuals have increased in Nigeria in the recent years. This has made the government to come up with strict measures to enhance dealing with the issue (Okanlawon, 2017). The amendment of the Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Act, 2013 (SSMPA) has worsened the situation for the Nigeria’s beleaguered lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

This situation made the Human Right Watch to indicate that the amendments led to increased extortion and violence against the homosexual individuals living in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Onuche, 2013). Similar to most of the African countries, the Nigerian government has come up with laws which are meant to illegalize the act of homosexuality where those who are found guilty are supposed to serve not less than 14 years imprisonment and 10 years for those who are found to facilitate the occurrence of the marriage between the homosexuals.

According to the research study conducted by Endong & Vareba (2015), it was determined that introduction of the harsh laws against homosexuality in Nigeria has significantly led to stigmatization and ostracism of the LGBT community as well as exposing them to different risks such as extortion, blackmail, lynching and public humiliation. Furthermore, Onuche (2013) in his study determined that the antigay legislation in Nigeria has significantly led to handicapping of the advocacy and activism for the African homosexuality. Despite the fact that the Nigerian law enforcement agencies are currently involved in the crackdown on the members of the homosexuality community, it is important to take into considerations that there is a significantly good percentage of the general population of Nigeria which is in support for the rights of the Nigerian homosexuals.

The introduction of the new laws which criminalize the act of homosexuality in Nigeria has led to the development of a deteriorated situations. Based on the provision of this laws, any person who enters into a same sex marriage contract or civil union would be considered to have committed an offence which can result to the imprisonment term of not less than 14 years (Onuche, 2013). The law is also clear about the stringed measures which would be taken against those who are involved in any activity related to the homosexuality either directly or indirectly. Much criticisms have been based on the fact that Nigeria introduced another sets of anti-homosexuality laws yet there existed some which were considered to be effective.

On the other hand, the study conducted by Endong & Calvain (2015) established that the gay people were also not willing to get marries in a country were the act of homosexuality could make a person to be lynched by the mob. The massive interest in social media as demonstrated by the homosexuals, just like the other people in Nigeria, has been fueled by the increasingly affordable wireless internet connections in the country. Different social media platforms have enabled the members of LGBTI from Nigeria to effectively express their feelings to the world. Despite the fact that such platforms could be used as a source of comfort by the homosexuals, the study conducted by Encarnación (2014) established that there are countless cases were the homosexuals receive a lot of insults from the public than friendship.

Even though it has not been proven, Encarnación (2014) stated that the government of Nigeria have considered enacting these harsh laws on homosexuality in order to demonstrate to the rest of the world that they are above imperialism. Following the signing into law the Same Sex Marriage Act, 2013 (SSMPA) in early January 2014, it has been determined that there are several cases of brawls and violence which have continued to trail the law. Just after five days following the signing of the same sex marriage prohibition bill into law, Kane (2015) stated that the report written by the Associated Press could confirm that a 28-year-old gay was arrested in the city of Bauchi.

Because the accused had shown great remorse during trials as well as the fact that the other charges which he was faced with took place long time ago, the judge did not sentence him to death by stoning but instead given twenty lashes as well as being ordered to pay N5000. Correspondingly, Kane (2015) in their study stated that on 25th January 2014, there were eleven men who were arrested in of the gay clubs in the city of Bauchi and they were taken to correct for the sentencing process. The arrival of the accused in the court saw thousands of the protesters who wanted to stone them to death as well as calling for speedy trials as well as their harsh sentencing.

There are a lot of questions which have raised concerning the future of the homosexual who are in the rural areas of Nigeria where access to telephones and internet is a problem. The general population of Nigeria has sent a stern warning to the homosexual community telling them to repent or they will be forcefully fished out. According to the information from the research study conducted by Endong and Calvain (2015), it was established that there are some cases where the family members of those who are caught in the homosexuality cases disown their wards. Despite the fact that to some extent the introduced law has significantly helped in reducing the number of homosexuals in Nigeria as well as keeping the sexual serenity of the community, these homosexuals should not be treated as if they are not human beings.

Problem Definition

Since gaining independence from the British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria has been able to slowly evolve from a country which was known for election violence as well as massive occurrences of corruption related cases to the ability to achieve its first peaceful transition of power that took in 2007 between the civilian leaders (Chukwu, 2015). One of the most important landmark for the respect of human rights as demonstrated in Nigeria was the ability of the state to set free all of the political prisoners in 1990s.

Even though the country has been able to achieve some progress in the respect of human rights as well as continued commitment to protect the rights of all of her citizens through the help of the international legal commitments, several studies, such as that conducted by Chukwu (2015) and Panditaratne (2016), have determined that Nigeria have remained marred by the violation of the human rights as well as provision of substandard health care services to her citizens. The development of the anti-same sex marriage in Nigeria has significantly promoted the violation of human rights some so among those who are or suspected to belong the community of homosexuals in Nigeria (Johnson, 2013).

Among the events that took place which led to the 2011 United States of America foreign aid policy change, it was established that Nigeria discriminated against as well violating the rights of her citizens who are aligned to the LGBT community. Through the enactment of different laws as well as development of negative public attitudes, it has been established that Nigeria has remained successful in embodying an environment where hatred is significantly directed to those people who are presumed to be homosexuals (Panditaratne, 2016). The enactment of hostile laws as well as promotion of negative public attitude towards the homosexuals from Nigeria have led to generation of various forms of criticisms from both domestic and international groups which fight for the human rights.

The homosexuals in Nigeria are currently receiving a lot of discrimination that have significantly affected their access to different services offered by the government and private institutions. The most affected sector is the delivery of health care services to the LDBT members (Okanlawon, 2017). According to the research study conducted by Johnson (2013), it was determined that the HIV prevalence among the homosexuals in Nigeria stands at 17.2 percent, with male homosexuals contributing 9.1 percent of the total percentage. The number is found to be five times higher than the national prevalence among the general population.

The largest number of health intervention in Nigeria which are set to target the homosexual population are in most cases funded by the international nongovernmental organizations such as the Population Council Nigeria office (Johnson, 2013). One of the most important factor which has contributed the increasing number of HIV positive individuals from the homosexual population is based on the fact that they are often afraid to seek medical care more those who come from big cities of Nigeria such as Lagos, Kaduna and Abuja. They are afraid that taking themselves to the hospitals might make them to expose themselves to the law enforcement authorities who would eventually apprehend them since such bodies have currently been considered to be the hunters of the homosexuals (Kaoma, 2018). The study conducted by Chukwu (2015) described the state of medical centers which used to be their refuge as currently being considered as a death trap.

This type of change has been increased by the same sex marriage prohibition act implementation. Most of them have therefore decided to die in silence rather than patronizing these facilities and increase their risks of being arrested. Even though it is often a common behavior that if individuals is attacked by the general public, they often speak to the reporters as well as seeking proper medical attentions, this has not been the case of the attacked homosexuals since they are afraid that they would be further arrested and heavily charged in the court of law (Okanlawon, 2017). At times it has been established that they are not allowed to have their lawyers who would help them answer the charges which they face in the court of law.

Despite the fact that there have been different types of the outreach events that were designed to encourage the homosexuals to get tested and seek the necessary medical attention, such activities have been currently scaled back as a result of concern that the law authorities might interpret this effort as a mechanism of helping the homosexual community (Batra, 2016). The international nongovernmental communities have ever since come up with more effective approaches that would enable them to reach different groups of homosexuals from different parts of the country. One of the mechanisms applied by these communities include moving from group meetings to one-on-one interpersonal communications (Okanlawon, 2017). The signed bill was already being used by different people as well as state institutions such as the police to harass and intimidate the citizens based on their suspected or actual sexual orientations.

Despite the fact that the law was amended to ensure that the activities of the homosexuals in Nigeria are effectively suppressed, it did not provided for any measures that should be taken against the general public who are found humiliating the homosexuals (Okanlawon, 2017). The law did not consider that the homosexual also are human beings and that they are entitled to their rights just like any other citizen of Nigeria.

Based on the current situation that the homosexuals from Nigeria are faced with, it is clear that the government as well as the general public needs to do something in order to rectify the situation (Kaoma, 2018). One of the most important observation that different people have made regarding the same sex prohibition laws in Nigeria is the fact that the government has decided to have a deaf year on the issue for every, that is why they developed a provision of the law which prevent any body from introducing any bill that is related to homosexuality (Okanlawon, 2017). Despite the fact that the United States of America together with other states from Europe had continued to mount pressure on the Nigerian government, they have shown no efforts to improve the gay rights in the country (Panditaratne, 2016).

Based on the finds from the research study conducted by Johnson (2013), it was established that the evolution of the rights for the homosexual couples rely on the great extent upon the interplay of the institutional forces within a given country. Based on the level of discrimination that the homosexuals from the federal republic of Nigeria are currently facing, it would be very important for the government to consider making constitutional amendments on the same sex marriage prohibition laws in order to make the homosexuals have the right to decide their future partners. Therefore, it would be important for the government of Nigeria to consider coming up with laws that are meant to respect the right of every citizen irrespective of their sexual orientations.

Problem Tree

The determination of the most important criteria which can be used for generation of the most appropriate solution regarding the legalizing of homosexuality in Nigeria largely depends on the ability of the government as well as the other social stakeholders to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of this move. The first thing that needs to be done is to make the government of Nigeria to feel the importance of protecting the rights of every citizen regardless of their sexual orientations. This will help in neutralizing the firm grounds that the government of Nigeria has taken in relation to the victimization of the homosexuals. Despite being threatened about the possible withdrawal of the aid from the European countries as well as the United States of America, the government of Nigeria could not be swayed any more regarding this issue.

As a mechanism of responding to the threats, the then president of Nigeria chose to sign the bill into law. Despite the fact that the policymakers from Nigeria were only involved in making minor changes on the previous law, it was observed that the changes made the law to be harsher and a true violation of the human rights (Okanlawon, 2017). As legislative discrimination have continued to take place in Nigeria, it has been determined that violence as well as negative attitudes on the homosexual population has also increased. The introduction and discussion of the hostile laws is considered to be the main factor that led to the intensified cases of violence in Nigeria (Batra, 2016). The issues that originate from the same sex marriage have in most cases sparked emotional as well as political clashes between those who oppose the act and those support it.

Despite the fact that criminal and penal codes of Nigeria have been able to establish a punishment of up to 14 years for those who are involved in different forms of activities that are associated with homosexuality, it has been established that more severe punishments have been outlined by the Sharia law which is adopted by many Northern states of Nigeria (Kaoma, 2018).  According to the provisions of Sharia laws, sodomy is punishable by death through stoning. The application of the Sharia Laws to deal with cases of homosexuality by many states in Nigeria have been determined to follow a major trend that is applied by the various Muslim-majority states (Kaoma, 2018).

Nevertheless, the application of religious teachings alone cannot be used to explain the current situation of the anti-gay positions and violence in Nigeria. Based on the findings from the research study conducted by Johnson (2013), it was established that hostility and violence against the homosexuals extend throughout Nigeria. Panditaratne (2016) stated that in 2008, members of the churches from Lagos which were believed to be friendly to the homosexuals were beaten and stoned but the Nigerian authorities did not take any action of prosecuting the perpetrators.

The other group which should be targeted is the religious outfit. Based on the information that have been obtained from different religious groups, it has been determined that they have made up their minds regarding legalization of homosexuality. This is because they claim that the practice is against their religious practices and beliefs. Based on the state of the current level of discrimination that the homosexuals are faced with in Nigeria, it would be vital for the government to consider making changes in the constitution that would enable the homosexuals have their rights of romantic and conjugal association as long as they do not interfere with the rights of the other people in the society. Every citizen has a right and it is the duty of the government to protect those rights.

Discrimination of homosexuals in Nigeria

Discrimination of homosexuals in Nigeria

Stakeholder Analysis

This assignment will present different groups of stakeholders who are willing to get involved in the issues related to legalization of homosexuality in Nigeria. In the first section, there will be listing of all of the stakeholders in the long list while in the second section will contain the filtered short list. Every role that would be played by the stakeholder contained in the short list would be effectively introduced and discussed. The collective role of all of the stakeholders is to ensure that they advocate for the protection of the rights of every citizen.

Long List

  • The National Government Executive
  • The Parliament
  • The Judiciary
  • The Human Right Commission Nigeria Chapter
  • The Islamic Religion
  • The Christian Religion
  • The Nigerian Police Service
  • National Youth Forum
  • The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights
  • United Nations Development Program

Short List

  • The National Government Executive
  • The Parliament
  • The Judiciary
  • The Religious Outfits (Islam and Christianity)

The National Government Executive

The executive government of Nigeria, led by the president, is considered to be one of the most important organ that can influence the process of legalizing homosexuality in the country. Despite the urgent need of the law, different religious outfits from Nigeria continued to blame the then president of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as the National Assembly for legislating the new same sex Marriage Prohibition Law. The study conducted by Endong and Calvain (2015) determined that the amendment of this law could be considered as being catalyzed by the increased international support for the homosexuals in Nigeria as well as the pressure being amounted by the Western countries on the government of Nigeria to decriminalize homosexuality in the country. Therefore, this can be used as a clear indication that the president of Nigeria has got the power to abolish the current laws which illegalize the acts of homosexuality in Nigeria. The president of Nigeria should take into consideration he was sworn into office to protect the right of every citizen regardless of their romantic orientations. Including the president in every talk that is meant to enhance effective legalization process of the homosexuality in Nigeria is very important since the president is always considered as the head of the state.

The Parliament

The parliament is concerned with making the laws and policies which are used to govern a country. The parliament should therefore consider making some amendments on the laws which illegalize homosexuality in Nigeria.  In the present days, it has been determined that the federal parliamentary system of Nigeria has no ability to provide any bill submitted to the National Assembly that is requesting for the introduction of same sex marriage in Nigeria (Endong & Calvain, 2015). This is a clear indication that the government has already developed a deaf year on this issue. Based on that fact that the unions fighting for the rights of the homosexuals were effectively gaining momentum in places such as the United States of America as well as many other countries in Europe, the Nigerian Senate who came up with the bill were observed to be very overenthusiastic with this issue and hence they had to tighten the provision of the homosexuality laws as a way of being categorical that would not at any time entertain any talks related to the rights of the homosexuals in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, the laws should be made by the Nigeria parliament which are focused on protecting the rights of every citizen.

The Judiciary

The judicial system in Nigeria should also consider passing considerate judgment on the accused homosexual victims. There are different research studies which have indicated that the judiciary has often handled the cases of homosexuality with a lot of biasness. The general public should not take the law into their hands but instead should always the judicial system of Nigeria to rule on the cases regarding the involvement of an individual in homosexual activities (Kane, 2015). Even though violence, discrimination and abandonment are some of the most common fears which the homosexuals in Nigeria are currently having, the study conducted by Endong & Vareba (2015) determined that the issues related to poor health care services have also significantly affected them and more so after the introduction of the harsh anti-homosexuality laws in 2014. Kane (2015) stated that three years after the signing of the same sex marriage prohibition bill into marriage, there are few concerted efforts which have been made in order to help in curbing the occurrence of new cases of HIV infections among the men who are involved in same sex marriage or homosexuality. The study further indicated that homosexual males were more vulnerable to the sexually transmitted infections such as HIV than their female counterparts.

The Religious Outfits (Islam and Christianity) and Homosexuality

The religious outfits such as Islam and Christianity play an important role in the determination of the most appropriate way which can be used to determine how the rights of the homosexuals would be protected or abused. The reports from the human right commission also indicated that on 9th February 2014, a group of young men who were armed with iron bars and wooden clubs were screaming that they were individually going to clear all of the gays in their neighborhoods and in the process, it was indicated that they assaulted more than fourteen young men from their beds accusing them of being involved in the homosexuality activities (Encarnación, 2014). These are considered to be some of the few documented cases concerning the increased rates of violence against the homosexuals since the Same Sex Marriage Act, 2013 (SSMPA) was signed into law. It is the role of the religious leaders to promote peaceful coexistence in the community. Therefore, they should make sure that the general public is effectively educated on the most appropriate ways of enhancing peaceful relationship. One of the most important approach will be through respecting the rights of every individual regardless of their romantic orientations.


Homosexuality policy development in Nigeria

Homosexuality policy development in Nigeria

Dr. Robertson Prime, Research Fellow
Dr. Robertson Prime, Research Fellow