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Learning English - Words in the News
02 March, 2007 - Published 13:22 GMT
Nigerian gay law 'a threat to democracy'
Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Austin Opara
Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Austin Opara

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says a proposed Nigerian law banning same-sex marriages threatens democracy in the country as it also restricts freedom of speech and association. This report from Alex Last:

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A law banning same-sex marriages in Nigeria is a bit redundant, after all, homosexuality is already illegal in the country. The law was proposed last year by the government largely as a symbolic rejection of legislation in western countries which allowed same sex unions.

The new law is not controversial in Nigeria. It is barely an issue and it has prompted almost no discussion. This country is fervently religious, split between Muslims and Christians and most people in both communities consider homosexuality to be immoral. That is not to say it does not exist. Many local languages have a word for homosexuality, but it is not a subject for debate and is considered at best something that should be left in private.

But Human Rights Watch says the bill has implications beyond the issue of same-sex marriage because it would also punish anyone who advocates the rights of gay and lesbian people, and would silence any discussion of the topic. The group said the bill would impose a five-year jail term on anyone involved in gay clubs, processions and meetings. It is unlikely that these concerns will halt the passage of the law, but some doubt whether in practice such a law would ever be enforced.

Alex Last, BBC News, Lagos

Listen to the words

a bit redundant
not really needed, unnecessary

against the law

is not controversial
doesn't cause a lot of disagreement or discussion

barely an issue
not really an issue, hardly a subject for discussion

fervently religious
very strongly and sincerely believing in God

against accepted standards of behaviour

a subject for debate
a topic that needs to be discussed

possible future results or effects, consequences

publicly defends, supports

halt the passage of the law
stop the law becoming adopted and enforced

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