by YOUR HEAD FAG IN CHARGE
It’s a bad time to be gay in Nigeria, not that there was ever a particularly good one. Police have arrested 38 gay men in Nigeria’s northern Bauchi state, reports the Associated Press. Police have a list of 168 suspects, the names allegedly obtained through torture.
Last week Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which has been dubbed the “Jail the Gays” bill and not only makes gay marriage illegal, but also criminalizes gay organizations and anyone who promotes such organizations. Programs designed to educate gays on HIV-AIDS are now endangered, said Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights. Anyone convicted could face up to 10 years in jail. Sound familiar? That’s because there’s a similar situation in Uganda.
It began with the entrapment and torture of four gay men in Bauchi state. Mustapha Baba Ilela, chairman of the Bauchi state Shariah Commission, told the AP that 11 men had been arrested over the past two weeks and were charged with belonging to a gay organization, but denied that anyone had been tortured.
Western countries have condemned the new law. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that it “dangerously restricts freedom.” Thanks, John, because that wasn’t already obvious. The U.N. agency to fight AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria felt “deep concern that access to HIV services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be severely affected by [the] new law in Nigeria – further criminalizing LGBT people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them.” UNAIDS also pointed out that the law could harm President Jonathan’s own initiative to fight AIDS, which he started a year ago.
There are an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. A 2010 study estimated that 17 percent of Nigeria’s gay population was living with HIV, compared to only 4 percent of the heterosexual population. You would think those numbers would be telling of what changes are needed, but not everyone agrees. Reuben Abati, Jonathan’s spokesman, said “This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religions inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people […] Nigerians are pleased with it.”
And we are pleased not to go to Nigeria. But we don’t get to choose where we’re born. We’re pretty sure the unfortunate gay citizens of Nigeria would prefer to live… almost anywhere else. Stay strong, fellow gays.