News / Africa

Nigerian Activists Decry Impact of New Anti-Gay Measure

FILE - Abosede Oladayo, an AIDS activist living with HIV, speaks during an event to mark World Aids Day at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, Dec. 2, 2011. Groups fighting AIDS warned Jan. 14, 2014, that a new Nigerian law criminalizing same-sex marriage, gay organizations will harm anti-AIDS efforts.
FILE - Abosede Oladayo, an AIDS activist living with HIV, speaks during an event to mark World Aids Day at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, Dec. 2, 2011. Groups fighting AIDS warned Jan. 14, 2014, that a new Nigerian law criminalizing same-sex marriage, gay organizations will harm anti-AIDS efforts.
Heather Murdock
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has signed a law that makes gay marriage in Nigeria punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Activists say the law will have disastrous consequences for the gay community and beyond. Political analysts say the popular law will be a gain for the president, whose ruling party is going through severe internal struggles ahead of the 2015 elections.  
On Monday morning, it was illegal to be gay in Nigeria. By Monday night, gay marriage had become illegal, along with being a member of a gay organization - a crime that could mean up to 10 years in prison.  
Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike is a rights activist and one of the few people in Nigeria who has spoken out against the law. He said the law may be intended to target gays, but it may harm others as well.
For example, he said, gay men in Nigeria have a high HIV infection rate - 17 percent - and the law will keep some some men from getting treatment out of fear.  

For others, no treatment will be available.
“Organizations providing services for them, according to the bill, will have to shut down. And some of them also are married. Some of them have girlfriends. And some of these women will definitely get married and bear children,” said Orazulike.

Swift criticism

The new law was quickly criticized by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it "dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians."   
In contrast with many Western nations, anti-gay sentiment is common across much of Africa and this new law is popular among Nigerians.

A sampling of public opinion vividly illustrates this prevalent attitude.
“I feel highly delighted and very grateful to God above all because it is a line in the right direction,” said one person in Abuja.
“I support the federal government because this thing is against the two religions. It’s very, very, very bad,” said another.
“Actually it is the right thing. They were supposed to have done it even before. It was supposed to have been even in our constitution,” said still another person.
Nigerian lawmakers have been kicking around a version of this law for years, and last May the bill was passed by the national assembly. Jonathan signed the bill last week, a move that was made public on Monday.

Several Western countries have slammed the law, including Britain, which has threatened to withdraw aid from African countries with anti-gay legislation.
Analysts say the timing of this bill is notable, as 2015 elections approach and the president’s popularity appears to be declining.  
Abubakar Kari, a political science lecturer at the University of Abuja, said gay rights are not a pressing issue for most Nigerians - the majority of whom live in abject poverty - although it is one issue upon which most citizens agree.
“Both Muslims and Christians appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to gay rights. And therefore the president also hopes to achieve some political mileage,” said Kari.

Charges of political pandering

He said the president also may have signed the bill to distract the public from the controversy surrounding the ruling party, as high-level members defect, some to a new and formidable opposition party.
On Twitter, angry opponents of the law are calling for protests, while supporters of the law are calling on the West to stop interfering with Nigerian culture.  
Activists in Nigeria say they haven’t yet decided how, but say they will fight for the repeal of the law. Orazulike said, in the meantime, anyone who is gay, supports gay rights or provides services like HIV treatment for gay men is in danger.
“What if someone who doesn’t like me on the streets can go and call the police to come and arrest me? And I’ll be jailed,” said Orazulike.

Most gay people in Nigeria hide their sexuality or live in constant fear of attacks or being abandoned by their families and friends.
When asked if he considers leaving Nigeria to protect himself, Orazulike said he can’t go because with the gay population almost entirely in hiding, someone needs to give them a voice.
Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna.

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Comments page of 2
by: honeybany from: xxxx
January 15, 2014 2:09 AM
other African countries should follow Nigeria's foot step.b/c being gay or lesbian is out of African cultures and religions.Africa got a lot of problems to take care of and gays and lesbians are another disease that has no cure for Africa so all African Nations should be aware of this non curable disease and protect their community regardless of the western imposition.Africa could stand by itself with out the west,we can do every thing by our selves and the world has so many Nations which has similar cultures with us and Africa believes in Mutual Respect not by threatening and interfering on others affairs and also on respecting one's country's rule & law as long as the country is independent.China is a good example for westerns if they want to learn from it b/c china believes in mutual respect and do not interfere on any country's affair.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Florida
January 16, 2014 4:05 AM
African religions? Gays were in Nigeria long before Christianity and Islam ever came to West Africa.

You are imprisoning people simply because they are born a certain way. That is not an issue of mutual respect.

by: emma n j nwosu from: port Harcourt- Nigeria
January 14, 2014 10:26 PM
I will ask the American government to consider giving the Islamic terrorists freedom too. at least they have freedom of existence. then it will make sense telling Nigeria to consider gay rights

by: carlos from: California
January 14, 2014 8:05 PM
Good I'm glad finally someone is putting a stop to gay marriages ppl need to see that stopping gay marriages also stops HIV spreading and other countries need to mind there own business and respect there culture especially the US
In Response

by: jeff from: usa
January 15, 2014 11:19 AM
True, we should stop giving them Aid . If a county differs in human right to this point, why would we give aid to governments that are punishing people that would be free in our country.

by: Henry from: Texas
January 14, 2014 8:05 PM
What is all the fuss about? Nigeria has passed antigay law. so what? A country is free to pass whatever law they feel is ok to protect their cultural integrity. Western nations have laws that do not allow polygamy afterall, no one is complaining that this is a rights violation to some people whom might want to practice polygamy. In Africa, polygamy is accepted and we do not try to sell it to westerners so why try and sell the Gay rights violation to Africans.
In Response

by: Bulk from: TEXAS
January 16, 2014 4:23 AM
Ok stop using anything from Western World. FOOL

by: 9ja Life from: Lagos, Nigeria
January 14, 2014 6:28 PM
The next babaric thing to BAN and impose penatly on is Pornography; it is inhuman, babric and worse that marijuana that the NDLEA work tirelessly against. It is a disease that must be eliminated from our society.

by: C from: Don't matter
January 14, 2014 3:09 PM
Ther it goes again. US telling world what is right and wrong. This is exactly what's weong with America. It think whatever it does is correct and the world should follow them blindly. What gives the US the right to tell others how to rule their country? Did the Freedom of assembly was very well tolerated byUS during last occupy Wall Street stele last year in US.
In Response

by: Jeff from: USA
January 15, 2014 11:20 AM
True, just pull our Aid out. Let them do as they wish, but make sure we are not using our money to fund a country that Human Rights do not match what is our view.

by: Drew from: Memphis, TN
January 14, 2014 3:09 PM
America must stop supporting third-world nations like Nigeria that harass their own citizens all while taking our hard earned dollars in the form of aid...The vast majority of AIDS cases world wide are from hetero sex...North America,'s time to stop helping these backwards people who believe in mythical deities.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet- Africa
January 17, 2014 9:20 AM
Why is the US moving arround the world like the Satan. Has the US no home? Stay in your home and leave others to stay in their own homes and the world would have peace. The US and its EU allies are more dangerous that any virus that has ever existed in human history. Nigeria can exist comfortablely without the US. Infact, signing the anti-gay bill into law is one of the happiest moments in the history of Nigerai. Unites States of America has it all, and gives aid to all, but ask them now to go to their country with that aid and see if they will. Shame!!!
In Response

by: Me from: Plymouth
January 15, 2014 9:13 AM
I believe the help should be stopped too so that you will let us be.
In Response

by: Omos from: Lagos, Nigeria
January 15, 2014 7:39 AM
Nigeria can survive without America.

January 14, 2014 2:45 PM

by: Dennis Ragwel from: Nairobi Kenya
January 14, 2014 2:19 PM
This is against the bible and against African culture. Jonathan is right. Lets behave like human beings that God created.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
January 14, 2014 2:08 PM
Nigeria is an African country and thus should be respected for its opinions and choices it makes for itself and its citizens. To say an unknown activist group decries a law made in the country is to say Nigeria should once again return to the slavery days. The West cannot be carrying out freedom projects in the continent and at the same want to subjugate the continent once again by infiltration of alien cultures. If the gay issue means so much in the West, let us first hear one of the presidents, prime ministers and top government functionaries declare it in their family. Even if that has to be, freedom means countries are allowed to do their own things their own way, not doing American and European things in Africa in American and European ways. That is wrong. Africans don't want that kind of acculturation. While Africa, nay Nigeria does not restrict anyone who wants to go gay, the West should open its does to accommodate them while those who feel that practice out there is not good for them should make their way to Africa. Don't force us to be like you, after all you have not forced your technology on us, why gay marriage?
In Response

January 15, 2014 5:33 AM
Thanks @ Godwin for that apt and succinct comment. What these so called "civilized countries" failed to realised is that freedom means countries are allowed to do their things in their own way; not doing American and European things in Africa "in America and European" ways. These countries are infringing on our freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
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