The situation is getting worse for homosexuals in Nigeria by the day. The country has been taken over by a violent homophobia that led a few years ago to the enactment of a draconian law criminalizing homosexuality. Police recently have been arresting homosexuals and torturing them to name others for prosecution under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which allows for ten years in jail. The law is not just about marriage. Called the “Jail the Gays” bill, it criminalizes homosexuality and threatens AIDS programs in the country. The question is that, as the recipient of a great deal of U.S. aid, why is it appropriate for us to indirectly support a nation that is abusing, and in some cases killing, gays and lesbians?
President Goodluck Jonathan supports this hateful law and signed it last week. It goes further than virtually any other African nation but criminalizing not just same-sex marriage, but homosexuality, gay organizations and even associations with them.
Some of the worst abuses came in Bauchi where rumors spread that the United States gave gay activists $20 million to promote same-sex marriage. That led to a spasm of violence and police abuse with dozens of arrests.
Local Muslim leaders are also fueling the attacks and the arrests. Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, which oversees regulation of Islamic law, said that Muslim were helping police “fish out” the homosexuals and their associates. He proudly said that “We are on the hunt for others.” Bauchi enforces Sharia law in a breakdown of separation of mosque and state as well as a deprivation of basic civil liberties inherent in such systems.
President Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, also defended the law and the crackdown, saying “[t]his is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people. … Nigerians are pleased with it.”
Well, not all Nigerians. Not those homosexuals . . . or their associates . . . or anyone who values the most basic notion of human rights and civil liberties. Besides those people, it is quite popular.