Nigeria Fast Tracks Worst Anti-Gay Law in World

There is some terrifying legislation that may soon be passed in Nigeria. Essentially it strips away all rights from homosexuals, and goes a step further to basically deny them the right to express themselves, congregate, and basically exist. Call/write your senators to let them know you are concerned about this. Unfortunately, discrimination against gays is still widely accepted (even promoted?) around the world (and here too). There are some pretty fundamental human rights being violated here. Read more below.

http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12180&sectionID=2

Nigeria: World's Worst Anti-Gay Law May Pass Soon
by Doug Ireland; DIRELAND; February 22, 2007

One of the most sweeping anti-gay bills ever introduced in any parliament in
the world is in danger of rapid passage in Nigeria in the coming weeks.
Although billed as a ban on same-sex marriage, the proposed law includes
provisions that would make any expression of homosexuality -- not only
sexual conduct but any homosexual inclination or reference -- in public or
in private, a crime.

This draconian, far-reaching piece of homophobic legislation provoked a
full-throated outcry from the globe's entire human rights community when it
was introduced last year, and for a while it had been dormant. But now the
bill has been fast-tracked for speedy passage in advance of Nigeria's
national elections in April, and the BBC's correspondent in the country's
capital of Abuja reported last week that "it is likely to be passed by both
chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly by the end of March."

Homosexual conduct among consenting persons in Nigeria is already a crime
punishable by 14 years in prison, a 19th century penal provision that is a
legacy of British colonial rule. But the new legislation goes much, much
further in terms of curbing fundamental rights of expression, association,
and communication. Among the proposed new law's many noxious provisions, it
would, under penalty of a stiff prison term of five years:

-- outlaw membership in a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest,
donating money to a gay organization; or even advocating gay equality in any
way, shape, or form;

-- outlaw hosting or even visiting a gay Web site;

-- outlaw expressions of same-sex love in letters or e-mails;

-- outlaw attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening
or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and
publishing, selling, or loaning a gay book or video.

Even mere socializing by two or more gay people, like having dinner
together, is likely to be interpreted as illegal.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals would be targeted not only for
specific acts but also for simply existing under this proposed law, and even
heterosexual people who "promote" the lifestyle of homosexuals, for example
by selling them a house, would be criminalized.

"It's critical that the Nigerian government understand that this is not an
issue of liberalism or Western cultural encroachment, but that this new law
violates the most basic of freedoms," Cary Alan Johnson, senior specialist
for Africa of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
(IGLHRC) told me.

And, added Johnson, "Nigeria is battling for a place as a leader of the
Global South and the world as a whole. Passing the bill into law would
seriously jeopardize any claims to leadership by showing that basic human
freedoms are still not available in Nigeria."

Islamic Sharia law, which makes homosexuality punishable by stoning, has
been imposed in 12 of the 36 states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria --
all of which have Muslim majorities and are located in the north of the
country.

And now the nation's term-limited authoritarian president for the last eight
years, General Olusegun Obasanjo -- having been denied a third term when the
National Assembly, disgusted at his regime's high-handed corruption,
refused him a constitutional amendment allowing him to stay in office -- has
bypassed the primaries of his ruling People's Democratic Party to hand-pick
as his successor the governor of one of those Sharia states, Umaru Yar'Adua,
known as a strict advocate of the Islamic legal code.

Obasanjo, a favorite of President George W. Bush, has been accused by
opposition parties of trying to rig the April elections in favor of
Yar'Adua, who is expected to be an enthusiastic enforcer of the proposed new
anti-gay law if, as seems likely, he is elected.

Last week, an MD who is Obasanjo's assistant on health issues, argued that
the new anti-gay law was needed to prevent HIV/AIDS -- by keeping gays from
infecting their wives and children -- and he also bizarrely asserted it
would help in preventing breast and womb cancer, to which he claimed
lesbians are particularly vulnerable, and in preventing depression and
suicide.

In fact, UNAIDS and other AIDS-fighting organizations have roundly condemned
the proposed new law, saying it would encourage the spread of AIDS by
driving at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men,
underground and invisible to prevention workers. And depression and suicide
among same-sexers would undoubtedly be increased by the psychological
ravages of the repressive bill, not decreased.

The national bodies representing Christians and Muslims, however, are both
strong supporters of the bill.

Representatives of a broad civil society coalition opposed to the proposed
law -- including LGBT advocates -- were initially denied entry to a
so-called "public" hearing on the bill last week on the grounds that it was
"by invitation only." But after intervention by representatives of the
European Union and foreign embassies, the bill's opponents were able to pass
through the National Assembly's gates and get to the hearing, according to
reports from Nigerian gay activists received by Human Rights Watch.

"There has been an absolutely amazing coalition of Nigerian LGBT and
mainstream human rights activists who have come together under the banner of
basic human freedoms" to oppose this bill, IGLHRC's Johnson told me, adding,
"It is really a watershed moment in LGBT history in Africa."

The dangers of the proposed law for the fight against AIDS, and its crushing
effects on already-beleaguered Nigerian gays, were underscored dramatically
in a new report issued February 17 by IGLHRC, and entitled, "Voices from
Nigeria: Gays Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders Speak Out Against the
Same-Sex Bill."

For example, a 37-year-old gay man named Chuma told IGLHRC, "I have been
targeted myself because I am gay. Two months ago I was arrested and
detained by the police in Lagos. This happened when I was carrying out
research for the study on the prevalence and risk factors of HIV/AIDS, STI
infections, and social risk behavior among men that have sex with men in
Nigeria. A team of policemen in Lagos came to my apartment and took me away
to an unknown place for two days. I was beaten beyond recognition, and I am
still receiving treatment for the head injury I received. I was dehumanized
and paraded naked to the press. My money, ID card, and shoes were taken.
Eventually I was released without being charged or tried. My only offense
was that I am gay."

"On another occasion, " Chuma continued, "when I was at a gay bar, police
came and arrested everyone there. Twenty-three people, including myself,
were kept in detention for two days without a trial. I am concerned that the
same-sex bill proposed by the Nigerian government will further force gays
underground. Hate campaigns against GLBT people will increase and
fundamental freedoms will be challenged. The laws will also affect Nigerians
more broadly. HIV/AIDS will increase because visible support for GLBT
organizations will vanish. Unemployment will increase. GLBT-friendly lawyers
will refuse to defend gays for fear of persecution."

The entire, must-read "Voices from Nigeria" report is available online for
you to read -- as you should -- by clicking here.

One report last week from a leader of the LGBT-civil society opposition to
the bill suggested that the Nigerian National Assembly is divided on its
passage at the moment, with one-third for, one-third against, and one-third
undecided. And IGLHRC's Johnson told Gay City News that "There is still time
to prevent the passage of this bill."

Asked by this reporter what U.S. gays could do to help, Johnson said: "While
Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin have both weighed in against the bill,
Americans still need to put pressure on their representatives to condemn the
bill. Your readers should call their members of Congress and the State
Department and ask them to speak out against the Same-Sex Marriage Act.
Full-scale activism is what is needed at this point."