Nigeria’s legal system adequate for persecution

Reading the US State Department’s latest Human Rights Report for Nigeria (issued Feb 25, 2009) you’d think the Nigerian system of justice was adequate for the persecution of homosexuals. For one thing, there are stringent laws on the books for homosexual practices. For another, the police forces regularly abuse their powers.

On existing penalties for homosexual practices:

Homosexuality is illegal under federal law; homosexual practices are punishable by prison sentences of up to 14 years. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, adults convicted of engaging in homosexual intercourse are subject to execution by stoning, although no such sentences were imposed during the year. Because of widespread taboos against homosexuality, very few persons were openly homosexual.

On de facto actions of the legal system:

On September 12, local newspapers Nation, Vanguard, PM News and the Sunday Sun published photos, names, and addresses of members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-friendly church in Lagos. Following publication, persons started harassing the 12 members. One woman was attacked by 11 men, while others were threatened, stoned, and beaten. No investigation was initiated by year’s end.

On abuses by the legal system in general:

The government’s human rights record remained poor, and government officials at all levels continued to commit serious abuses. The most significant human rights problems included the abridgement of citizens’ right to change their government; extrajudicial killings by security forces; the use of lethal and excessive force by security forces; vigilante killings; impunity for abuses by security forces; torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and prolonged pretrial detention; executive influence on the judiciary and judicial corruption; infringement on privacy rights.

You would think that in such an environment religious leaders would have better things to do than devote time and energy to pushing for more laws against homosexuals. You would think that the attention of religious leaders would be on reform of the judicial system. But you would be wrong. As we have been reporting Archbishop Peter Akinola jumped in in full support of legislation that would impose criminal penalties on those perform gay marriage, gays who marry or the witnesses to gay marriage. And bussed in supporters of the legislation.

We’re still waiting for Martin Minns to even attempt to explain this one away. When similar legislation arose in *2006* the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement reported on by ACNS:

They said they were “especially grieved” by the support for the legislation given by the Church of Nigeria, noting that the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops called upon churches to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons.” … The proposals “would make the very act of listening to homosexual persons impossible.”

In unusually strong language, the bishops said they “disassociate” themselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria and called upon Anglicans around the world to listen to and respect the human rights of gay people.

History is repeating itself. It’s time for Minns to be on the hot seat, again.

What Nigeria needs, of course, is legislation to protect homosexuals from hate crimes. In the present environment who knows what is going on — but if it’s anything like South Africa, which is doing something of a self examination of the question, there’s plenty to be concerned about.

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