The Nigerian government tried to criminalize the freedom of association and assembly for Gay people and their Straight friends three years ago, but couldn’t get the bill through Parliament after an international outcry, including by the U.S. State Department under President Bush and Secretary Condoleeza Rice. Now we have a new administration that’s up to its eyeballs in economic worries, so the Nigerian government, in collaboration with the Anglican and Catholic churches, is trying again. They’ve cut the jail time from 14 years to 5, but even a month is enough to kill ya in a Nigerian jail.
Changing Attitude is the relevant LGBT Anglican lobby group in West Africa. I don’t share their hope that invoking the “listening process” on Gay issues within the Church is going to move vicious Archbishop Peter Akinola one inch – but I guess when you’re desperate, you use whatever ammo you’ve got.
Here’s their statement, written by a White priest in the U.K. who’s made it his business to advocate on their behalf.
Group leaders from Changing Attitude Nigeria present statement on Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 at public hearing in Abuja
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
by Colin Coward
Today, Wednesday, March 11, the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 will be debated at a public hearing in Abuja. The Bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Justice and Women Affairs. Legislators in Nigeria will again address a matter of life and death for the tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of Nigeria.
Three leaders from the Changing Attitude Nigeria groups in Lagos, Jos and Abuja will be present at the hearing to present testimony against the bill. They will present the following statement:
Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008
Statement by Changing Attitude Nigeria
The Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 will further undermine the fundamental human rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Nigerians, their families and friends. It will criminalise LGBT Nigerians simply for being who they are. Anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private” and any priest or cleric aiding or abetting such a union would be subject to a five-year prison term.
Archbishop Peter Akinola and the bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have committed themselves to the process of listening to LGBT people. Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 #3 committed the Church to listen to the experience of homosexual persons. The Windsor Report in para.146 called for an ongoing process of listening and discernment. The Archbishops and bishops of Nigeria cannot with integrity listen to LGBT people and support the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. If the bishops are honest and serious about listening to LGBT Anglicans they must speak out now in condemnation of this bill and ensure that it is defeated.
Conservative Christians want to use Nigeria as an example to other African countries to demonstrate that anti-gay legislation can be passed which criminalizes all affection and activity between LGBT people.
The Bill targets a non-existent threat. There has been no proposal that same sex marriages should be made legal in Nigeria. Changing Attitude Nigeria may wish that such a Bill legalising same sex marriage should be added to the statute book but we are realistic. A Bill could not be introduced until the present penal code against homosexuality has been repealed. Our ultimate goal is the repeal of Article 214 of the Penal Code and specifically Section 215, 217 and 352.
Very few Nigerian LGBT activists are free to speak out in a country which already has repressive anti-gay legislation on the statute book. The new Bill will increase the pressure on LGBT people in Nigeria and push them further into secrecy and a clandestine pattern of life. What the Bill will not do is reduce the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Nigeria. It will increase prejudice against them and heighten the risk of violence and arrest.
Changing Attitude Nigeria stands as a reminder to the world-wide Anglican Communion that the Church of Nigeria is promoting and supporting a bill which will erode the most basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Nigerian government has an obligation to promote and protect the human rights of its population without distinction of any kind, including sexual orientation or gender identity. We therefore urge the National Assembly not to pass this Bill.
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