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Wednesday, 15 January 2014
NIGERIA'S ANTI-GAY LAW Sparks International Outrage!
14 January, 2014
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On Monday, Nigeria provoked international outrage after President Goodluck Jonathan ratified a bill outlawing gay marriage and same-sex unions under threat of imprisonment.
Under the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison while any such partnerships entered into abroad are deemed "void". It also warns that anyone who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship will break the law.
"Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria," the law states.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. were "deeply concerned" with the development, as the new law "dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians". The act, according to Mr. Kerry, is "inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 constitution".
"People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love," the U.S. Secretary added.
In Britain, the news was met with equal disapproval, with gay rights campaigners describing the new law as "one of the world's most homophobic laws," while advocacy groups called it "tragic" and a backward step in the fight for equality.
Nigeria is one of 38 African countries — about 70 per cent of the continent — that have laws persecuting gay people, according to Amnesty International. The organization had urged President Jonathan to reject the bill, calling it "discriminatory" and warning of "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Jonathan's spokesman Reuben Abati dismissed global concerns, saying the law was consistent with the attitudes of most people towards homosexuality. "More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people," he added. "Nigerians are pleased with it."
Senator Domingo Obende of southern Edo state, who sponsored the bill, said he was pleased the law was now on the statute books and Jonathan's sanction was expected. "We knew that the "President of Nigeria is a traditional human being, he's a very moral person and a Christian, so we knew he would sign," he added. He also warned the international community not to interfere in Nigeria's affairs. "It's not a law to kill anybody. It's a corrective measure. Traditionally, culturally, morally, Nigeria does not want this."
The rest of Africa
The new anti-gay marriage law follows similar legislation in Uganda. Homosexuality is also illegal in our eastern neighbour, Cameroon, and punishable by up to five years in prison.
Several African leaders have warned they will not be dictated to on a subject that is anathema to their culture and religion. Yahya Jammeh, the president of Gambia, has said homosexuals should be decapitated.
In June, Senegal's president Macky Sall argued with Obama about the subject at a news conference. Sall said afterwards that other countries should refrain from imposing their values beyond their borders.
"We don't ask the Europeans to be polygamists," Sall said. "We like polygamy in our country, but we can't impose it in yours. Because the people won't understand it. They won't accept it."
Emelike Emeka Emmanuel
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