Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Public Hearing of Same Gender Bill Today

Nigerian gay rights activists have told the country's lawmakers that a new bill to outlaw same sex marriage would lead to widespread human rights abuses. The new law would mean prison sentences for gay people who live together, and anyone who "aids and abets" them. The plea by activists was made to a public committee of the National Assembly which is discussing the bill. It is already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria but the new law would extend police powers to arrest suspects. "This bill is not necessary, we see no reason why people should be criminalised," Rashidi Williams, 23, of the Queer Alliance of Nigeria told the committee. "I did not choose to be gay. It is trial enough to live in this country, we should not create more laws to make us suffer," he said. (In the photo on the left is Rashid Williams, a gay rights activist addressing the National Assembly).

'Fabric of society'

Under the new law anyone who has "entered into a same gender marriage contract" would be liable to be jailed for three years. The bill defines a same sex marriage as gay people living together. Anyone who "witnesses, abets and aids the solemnization" of a same gender marriage would face five years in prison, or a fine. Activists say the law does not make sense because anyone who aids and abets people to live together would face a tougher sentence than the couple concerned. The law would make it easier for the police to arrest suspects, and criminalise anyone working in a human rights organisation that dealt with gay rights, they say.
Church groups spoke in favour of the bill, saying that gay marriage risked "tearing the fabric of society". "In the Bible it says homosexuals are criminals," Pius Akubo of the Daughters of Sarah church told lawmakers. Rev Patrick Alumake told the National Assembly the top leadership of the Catholic church in Nigeria supported the bill wholeheartedly. "There are wild, weird, ways of life that are affecting our own culture very negatively, we have people who either by way of the media or travelling around the world have allowed new ideas which are harmful to our nation and our belief," he said. The bill's sponsor, House of Representatives member Mayor Eze, said the bill was necessary to protect the family. "If you are not careful and allow the family institution to break down, and the consequences will be on all of us," he said.


Children wearing T-shirts that said "Same sex marriage is unnatural and unAfrican", and "same sex marriage is an abomination" stood in the aisles of the committee room. Ekaette Ettang, of the Daughters of Sarah church who provided the T-shirts, denied they were inciting hatred against homosexuals. "We don't hate gay people, but this is the public opinion and we have the right to speak," she said. Activists say gay people in Nigeria face violence from their families and neighbours every day. Two years ago, a woman went into hiding in the northern Kano State after reports that she had organised a wedding for four women - which she strongly denied. Also that year 18 men were arrested in the northern city of Bauchi and accused of participating in a "gay wedding". A Sharia court dismissed the charges and they were charged with the lesser offence of vagrancy.


Anengiyefa said...

It is hurtful that even young children are being fed this misinformation. How unAfrican can a person's sexual orientation be, especially when the proponents of this fallacy are themselves champions of religions that are European or Middle Eastern in origin. How African are the fancy archbishop's robes of Archbishop Akinola? What is African about being a bishop? What is African about Christianity? It is nothing but hypocricy for Christian clergymen to condemn African homosexuals for being unAfrican.

THE Y RIVER said...

Its only a matter of time, even if the bill is passed...things will change for the better once we have leaders who are not short sighted and ignorant. And we will have such leaders. These ones will die out

Anengiyefa said...

I would love to share in your optimism, but I cannot but be alarmed by the views that I hear being expressed by people of the younger generation. It is obvious that there is a dearth of information available to Nigerians generally. And the religions have too much influence and control over their minds. I do not expect in my lifetime to witness acceptance for gay people in Nigeria. I can only hope that future generations will have it better.

Anonymous said...

Anengiyefa, thank you for your thoughts. I completely agree with you, darkness will cloud Nigeria for a long time to come.

Sadly, Nigeria has become a place where bad ideas gain traction and are readily accepted (because it's the easy option) and good ones are shunned or ignored (because they require more effort). Logic and reason are under attack and irrationality and stupidity are on the rise.

Tamaku said...

The fact that this is even up for discussion shows that gays are making inroads! I see a brighter future.

Anengiyefa said...

Hi Tamaku,
With regard to the gay issue in Nigeria, positive thinking is beyond my capability at the moment. As CodLiverOil pointed out, the country is shrouded in darkness. And the forces that the major religions represent, are intent upon holding fast to the Nigerian society, which is one of their major strongholds.

By the way, give my love to G. :)

Anonymous said...

For those who don't know what the fuss is all about.

Here is an example of what occurred in Nigeria before the advent of this bill.

As you can see not much was done about it. Did the mere act of having a sexual liaison merit the death of Inua Yakubu? His "classmates" obviously thought it did.

The same sex bill in Nigeria is designed to legitimise acts of homophobia, indeed it can be likened to a witch hunt. One can only imagine how bad things will become once it is enshrined in law.

It is a sad day, when the government joins in with the haters in society, to encourage the wanton destruction of elements it's populace because it is "popular" and politically expedient to do so. This is what is happening in a "democratic" society, one can't help but feel that things have really gone amiss there, somewhere along the line a wrong turn has been taken.

Naijadude said...

We all can go intellectual and critical of the issue as much as we can. I would say kudos that its even been talked about and we could have some brave people to stand up for what they believe with without shame and defend themselves.

I will keep my fingers crossed and wait if there might be any retaliation to those gentlemen that went to be heard! For as long they werent mobbed at the meeting, they are doing a good job in cohabitating with the "supposed" gays they thought never existed!

I am looking at it from the positive view.....Those guys werent mobbed nor arrested at the me it could be worse than that...The challenge has to start from somewhere and its a good step so far. bringing the issue to light... its sensitive and it wont be expected to be embraced with open arms!

Lets chill a bit and put ourselves in people that are ignorant to these orientation!

Anengiyefa said...

@Naijadude, the only reason why this discussion is taking place at all, is because Nigeria is about to pass an extremely oppressive law against gay people and those who support them. And it is accepted by almost everyone that this bill will win the approval of the majority and that it will be passed into law. The only positive thing that has come out of it is the fact that same-gender loving Nigerians have had the opportunity to say it loud that WE ARE HER E and in the process making a nonsense of our Foreign Minister's announcement to the UN a few weeks ago, that there are no gay people in Nigeria.

Free Surf said...

I sometimes wish all these gay haters would someday wake up to find out that their most precious sons and daughters are gay. They'd probably get hypertensive, suffer a stroke and subsequently die off. Hmm, It's that too harsh?