by JOE DELMONACO
Seven years ago, Mubarak Ibrahim says he was seduced by the male principal of his high school in Bauchi, Nigeria. On Thursday Mubarak, now 20 years old, received 20 lashes with an animal hide whip by order of Judge Nuhu Mohammed after being convicted of “sodomy” in an Islamic Sharia court in the same city. As reported in The Independent he only escaped the death penalty by virtue of the fact that he had shown “great remorse” by pleading guilty to the offense.
The whipping occurred in a packed courtroom where Mubarak was also ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Naira ($32).
On Monday, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a new restriction banning gay organizations, membership in gay groups, same-sex displays of affection, and any form of gay marriage or legal union. Mr. Ibrahim’s is believed to be the first conviction since the law went into effect.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
Since Christmas, 38 people have been arrested in the northern state of Bauchi, a largely Islamic enclave. The law signed on Monday, however, applies throughout the country. It carries mandatory sentences of 14 years imprisonment for gay sexual activity, and 10 years for those violating its provisions for people involved with or promoting same-sex organizations or clubs.
The law has been widely denounced in the US, the EU, and by the United Nations. Nigeria’s Muslim Rights Concern has issued a statement calling this criticism external meddling in the country’s affairs:
“Most reprehensible is the attempt by foreign powers to intimidate and coerce Nigeria into absorbing their despicable culture by threatening to withhold foreign aid,” it said, praising Mr Jonathan for resisting external pressures.
It has been widely reported that the 38 men arrested in the last weeks have been tortured into confessing to “sodomy” and coerced to provide the names of other homosexuals. Police are said to have compiled a list of an additional 168 men now targeted for arrest.
Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson announced that he will be travelling to Nigeria next week to meet with political leaders in an attempt to “encourage compassion.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Sir Richard Branson.
Virgin is one of the major international air carriers doing business in Nigeria, with daily flights from London to Lagos. It is unclear whether Mr. Branson intends to apply economic pressure. In a statement, he said, “We want to work with governments around the world – in countries we do and don’t operate in – to change attitudes for the better. Everyone should speak out to ensure people are free to love whoever they want. Those politicians passing draconian laws against gay people may discover their own children were born gay.”