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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Canada steps up & condemns Nigerian anti-gay law

While the media has been wringing its hands about whether or not Stephen Harper is getting too cozy with Israel, the Canadian government's condemnation of Nigeria's persecution of gays has barely been noticed. The Harper government deserves praise and support for its stance, especially from the gay community.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan recently signed a bill into law which criminalized gay marriage, "belonging to gay groups" and "public displays of same-sex relationships":
Under the terms of the law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison while any such partnerships entered into abroad are deemed "void".

It also warns that anyone who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship will break the law. Punishment is up to 10 years in prison, it adds.
Let that sink in for a minute. Nigeria didn't just outlaw gay marriage; it criminalized "public shows of a same-sex relationship." Gay Nigerians can be sentenced to 10 years in prison for going to a gay bar or holding hands in public. Predictably, the police in Bauchi province were rounding up homosexuals within days of the bill's passage:
 In Bauchi state, police entrapped four gay men and tortured them into naming others, Aken’Ova said. She said the police have drawn up a list of 168 wanted gay men, of whom 38 have been arrested in recent weeks.
She said the arrests began during the Christmas holidays and blamed “all the noise that was going on surrounding the (same sex marriage prohibition) bill.”
The chairman of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, Mustapha Baba Ilela, told the AP that 11 men have been arrested in the past two weeks and charged with belonging to a gay organization. He denied anyone had been tortured and said all 11 – 10 Muslims and a non-Muslim – signed confessions that they belonged to a gay organization but that some of them retracted the statements when they were charged by a judge.
Bauchi state, by the way, has enshrined Sharia law in its criminal law system. Soon one of the arrested men was flogged for his transgression. He was lucky he wasn't sentenced to death by stoning:
A Nigerian man has received 20 lashes after an Islamic court in the northern city of Bauchi convicted him of homosexual offences.
Under Islamic law, courts can punish homosexual acts by stoning to death.
But the judge said he took into account that the Muslim man, Mubarak Ibrahim, 20, carried out the acts seven years ago, and had stopped the practice.
In Nigeria, homosexual acts are illegal under both Islamic and secular law and restrictions have been tightened.
Earlier this month, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a bill which bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection.
The new legislation applies throughout Nigeria.
Most states in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria have adopted Islamic law, known as Sharia, since the end of military rule in 1999.
Along with Mr Ibrahim, 11 other Muslims and a Christian man were arrested last month accused by the authorities of being homosexuals.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of about $30 (£18).
Mr Ibrahim told the BBC he was relieved that Judge Nuhu Muhammad had been lenient on him and had not sentenced him to death.
The BBC's Ishaq Khalid was in court when Mr Ibrahim was lashed with a whip, made of animal skin smeared with oil.
Mr Ibrahim, who had pleaded guilty to the charge, was ordered to lie on a bench, and an official whipped his back in front of a packed courtroom, our correspondent says.
Mr Ibrahim screamed in pain while being lashed, but was able to walk afterwards, he adds.
The trial of two other men was adjourned to 23 January.
Yesterday in Bauchi a howling mob of thousands of protesters gathered outside the courthouse where the trial of 11 other homosexual men was to take place, hurling stones at the building and demanding the conviction and execution of the men arrested under the new law:
Thousands of protesters threw stones into the Shariah court in a north Nigerian city Wednesday, urging the speedy convictions and executions of 11 men arrested for belonging to gay organizations.
"No one can be sentenced to death until confirmed without a reasonable doubt," Aliyu said in response to calls for the men's execution.Security officials fired into the air to disperse protesters in Bauchi city so the accused men could be safely returned to the prison. Judge El-Yakubu Aliyu closed the court abruptly.
The court was arraigning seven of 11 accused men on Wednesday. Only three had given testimony when the mayhem began.
...
The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that President Goodluck Jonathan signed on Jan. 7 has resulted in a frenzy of arrests of gays. The law bans all gay associations, with penalties up to 14 years' imprisonment for marriage.
Bauchi state has both a Western-style penal code and Shariah, or Islamic law, in which sodomy can carry the death sentence with a judge deciding whether it should be done by a public stoning or by lethal injection. Shariah law is implemented to different degrees in nine of Nigeria's 36 states. About half of the country's more than 160 million people are Muslims, the other half Christians.
Canada's Foreign Minister, John Baird, immediately condemned the new law, and apparently an upcoming state visit to Canada by President Johnathan has been cancelled by the Canadian government:
Gay rights activists, human rights activists and even entire nations have voiced out their concern at the harsh law. Canada, on the other hand, may have decided to do more than just talking.
The nation was expected to receive Nigeria’s president on a state visit slated for February but is said to have cancelled the visit in a bid to show its displeasure at the new law.
According to Sahara Reporters:
A state visit being planned by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Canada for February has been canceled by the Canadian Government.
The cancellation happened in the same week it was revealed the President secretly signed a controversial law banning gays, lesbians, and sexual minorities in Nigeria.
Sources in Abuja told Sahara Reporters that the Nigerian Ambassador to Canada, Ojo Madueke, was told to inform President Jonathan that the state visit to Canada scheduled for February 13 and 14th 2014 has now been canceled.
Bravo. I'm very proud of Minister Baird and the Harper government for taking a public stand on this issue and telling the Nigerian government exactly how heinous this law is. As with Israel,  the government hasn't worried about what CBC viewers in Toronto think about losing our influence in the region and abandoning our so-called traditional (read Liberal) role of "honest brokers" exercising our "soft power".  We've come out strongly and forcefully against a barbaric law that has no place in a country that calls itself modern or civilized instead of worrying about offending a sovereign nation's unique cultural traditions. Thank you.

And to those gay critics of Harper who show up at his public appearances (as I witnessed once during the last election) chanting "Racist, sexist, anti-gay - Stephen Harper go away!" - judge the Tories by their actions and not by a cartoonish stereotype that fits your preconceptions of what motivates redneck Christian conservatives.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This law is reprehensible and regardless of partisan leanings, we should all stand up to it. At the same time I am a bit worried many African leaders are using the fact the countries with liberal attitudes on gay rights were former colonial powers. Whether it be Russia, Uganda, or Nigeria, the common theme is many claim its a western import they are trying to prevent. We need to make clear gay people exist in every population and it is not more or less common in some cultures. The only difference is in countries with more liberal attitudes to gay rights, people can be open about their sexual orientation whereas they cannot elsewhere. I've found many opposed to gay rights think it's a lifestyle choice when it's not. Heterosexuals don't chose to be heterosexual so why would it be any different for gays. This is a case where partisanship should be put aside and all parties stand up and condemn this vile law.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Harper was anti-gay just a few years ago. He switched sides when he realized there were more votes being pro-gay. That's real leadership.

Eric said...

Yeah, that's right - Harper was advocating rounding up homosexuals and imprisoning and torturing them.

Opposition to gay marriage does not equal "anti-gay". Harper changed his position on gay marriage after he called a free vote in the House of Commons on the issue, which is exactly what he promised in the previous election. Sounds like competent leadership to me.