Nigeria once again considers harshly punitive anti-gay legislation

Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up of recent developments in Nigeria’s attempts to ban gay marriage–which is already illegal.

Here is what Amnesty International says about the legislation:

If passed, the bill would give license to the authorities to raid public or private gatherings of any group of people they suspect to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The measure would also increase the risk of violence and other acts of discrimination against individuals who are suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It is simply unacceptable to single out one group of people to be deprived of the rights we all enjoy,” said Aster Van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher. “Legalising discrimination is reprehensible in itself and can only promote acts of hatred.”

Here is what Human Rights Watch says:

“This bill masquerades as a law on marriage, but in fact it violates the privacy of anyone even suspected of an intimate relationship with a person of the same sex,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It also threatens basic freedoms by punishing human rights defenders who speak out for unpopular causes.”

The Church of Nigeria, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, supports the legislation, as it supported a previous attempt to criminalize “direct or indirect”, “public or private” displays of same-sex affection. (For exhaustive coverage of that legislative saga visit the now-dormant Political Spaghetti. And don’t miss Bishop John Bryson Chane’s February 2006 op-ed essay opposing the legislation.).

The proposed legislation gives rise to a few questions: will the Obama State Department express concern about the bill as the Bush State Department did? Do members of the Anglican Church of Nigeria’s American branch (CANA), which includes such high-profile Washington figures as Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson support the legislation? If so, would they support similar legislation in the United States? If not, in what way is jailing gay Nigerians less morally objectionable than jailing gay Americans?

And finally, why is this sort of naked bigotry, roundly condemned elsewhere, not considered a problem worthy of discussion when Anglican leaders convene? We’ve spent six years fussing about an openly gay bishop who harms no one while Archbishop Akinola’s hate-mongering elicits not a peep from the leadership of the Communion.

Mark Harris (twice) and Pluralist are also on the case.

The Pluralist writes:

The Anglican Communion is watching one of its members become increasingly fascist, but its “patient” response so far has been to slow down the brighter model of inclusive development of human rights elsewhere. This is simply not a proper response to such a State’s and Church’s relationship towards its weakest (to paraphrase the identification of how to identify ‘being ethical’, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury in his recent economics lecture).

Rather, the time is now to show an alternative beacon of Communion of all the people: to meet this evil homophobic obsession in Nigeria head on and show that there is another way and a visible hope for all those about to suffer even more at the hands of the likes of Akinola and his crew. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, and other Churches, should now take off the brakes, because this is the ethical thing to do in the face of the dark clouds over obsessed Nigeria.

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