HIV activists in Nigeria have decried the law, arguing that it will drive vulnerable populations underground and shutter HIV services, while others fear that the law will trigger an influx of asylum seekers as LGBTQ people flee the country. Global leaders and human rights organizations have criticized the law as an affront to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
The situation in Nigeria has become increasingly inhospitable for gays, according to news reports. The Associated Press reports that 38 men have been arrested for alleged violations of the law, out of a list of 168 targets compiled by police. The executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights has accused Nigerian police of brutally beating four gay men until they revealed the names of other gays, according to the Associated Press. An Islamic court in Bauchi sentenced a man to 20 lashes for reportedly engaging in same-sex relations, reports BBC News.
Predictably, members of the American Religious Right have been applauding anti-gay sentiments in Nigeria, when not overtly encouraging them. Long before the bill was signed into law, American Religious Right voices were cheering on homophobia in Nigeria. According to Kapya John Kaoma's 2012 report, Colonizing African Values, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International has made connections in several African countries, including Nigeria. Slater reportedly delivered a homophobic speech at the 2011 International Law Conference on Challenges in Upholding the Rights of Women and Children in Nigeria, depicting LGBTQ rights as a threat to religious freedom and parental prerogatives.
In 2009, after the Nigerian government refused to recognize same-sex marriage, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel condemned the European Union for criticizing Nigeria. "The European Union has certainly been infiltrated by homo-fascists," he said, according to One News Now. "They are using that body to essentially try to push the international homosexual agenda down the throats of countries that respect traditional values relative to sexual morality."
In June 2013, MassResistance commented on Nigeria's "bold steps" to resist "the Western world's efforts to subvert public morality". The statement claimed that African nations have "had enough" of societal breakdown allegedly caused by gays.
"In many ways, the Africans are feeling the brunt of the world-wide homosexual activist movement even more than the United States. They are dealing with the huge spread of AIDS. But also, the breakdown in society caused by the homosexual movement seems to bring more general social destruction in African cultures than in the West. And nation after nation has had enough.
Should the punishments be this harsh? That's certainly up for debate. Obviously, the Nigerian legislature thinks so, given the desperate situation there. But similar laws are found around the world. To give some perspective, current Massachusetts law punishes homosexual behavior with up to 20 years in prison."
This is not to say that the American Religious Right created the current situation in Nigeria. Homophobia is a widespread problem in many parts of the globe, with or without outside activism. However, fomenting homophobia in an already homophobic environment is unethical, and applauding bigoted laws is vile.
Some American anti-LGBTQ activists will smile upon Nigeria's new law, just as they have smiled upon anti-gay efforts in Uganda, Russia, and Jamaica. Despite evidence that homophobic policies and attitudes are having a deleterious impact on Nigeria's LGBTQ community, many among the Religious Right will be unmoved. The American Religious Right's reactions to Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, and Jamaica have revealed their true colors, showing us what they want to see in the U.S.
The Religious Right aside, the signing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law is yet another reminder that the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues. As LGBTQ communities make gains in some parts of the world, other communities are losing ground because of bigotry and ignorance. The world must condemn unjust legislation such as this if equality is ever to be realized.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Huffington Post: Into the Heart Of Darkness? Uganda and Nigeria Pass Anti-Homosexuality Laws
NPR: Nigeria's New Anti-Gay Law A Harsh Reminder Of Global Attitudes
Associated Press: Why it's a crime to be gay in Nigeria