Katsina (a state in northern Nigeria and home to the Gobaru minaret) has decided to bypass the Nigerian federal government and enact a new law which criminalizes homosexuality with a 14 year jail term since the current sentence was too “light”. Note that Katsina already has Sharia law in place which punishes homosexual acts with a death sentence. I was quite surprised to find that Sharia law was introduced in that state by the governor at the time – the late President Yar’Adua, who died in office in 2010 and was well-liked by most Nigerian citizens. He is so far the only Nigerian presidential candidate to publicly declare his assets prior to an election. Part of new laws that were enacted in this 14 year jail term bundle include law against sexual harassment which is apparently common in universities as well as “gross indecency upon another person”.
I didn’t even know state governments could enact such laws outside of the federal authority but I have learned something today. Why consensual behaviour between two adults who know what they are doing should be punished in many African countries still angers and saddens me. As for the sexual harassment law, I’m glad a government has found it important to tackle it because it is known that many female university students are under pressure to grant sexual favours to lecturers and sexual harassment does continue in the workplace, I’m not sure a 14 year-jail sentence is the right way to solve this problem especially the legal system isn’t known for its fairness and transparency and the accused is almost always far more powerful than the accuser.
Maybe it’s time gay men and women in Nigeria began to speak up. Who knows which state will be next?