Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan recently signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, that has been called the “jail the gays” bill. The law states that “any person who registers, operates (supports) or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations directly or indirectly, makes a public show of a same-sex amorous relationship commits an offense and shall be liable to a term of 10 years’ imprisonment.” That’s interesting. African men in prison have been victims of rape by other men for years, so is this President Jonathan’s sick way of handling this issue?
Nigeria has always had harsh laws against the LGBTQ community (yan daudu), but President Jonathan’s recent signing is said to encourage angry mobs to engage in what is called “queer cleansing–” the the violent and systematic destruction of any expression of LGBTQ identities and culture. It’s been reported that government has given these mobsters permission to violently attack people because of who they love. Vigilante mobs have been wielding nail-studded clubs, iron bars, whips and wires and shouting, “We are working for Jonathan,” and claiming that they are “cleansing the community.” Homophobic gangs chase LGBTQ citizens from their homes and leave their signature message, “Homosexuals, pack and leave!” But wait, if they’re imprisoning the yan daudu, why would they need to threaten them with violence?
The “jail the gays” bill, which was unanimously passed in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, not only prohibits people from entering into same-sex marriages, it can affect straight people too! There’s a 10-year guilty-by-association jail sentence if you’re friends with or support anyone in any form of gender-nonconforming or homosexual activity.
Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo told The New York Times, “Every culture has what they regard as sacrosanct or important to them, and I don’t believe what our president and lawmakers have done in that respect is contrary to our culture.” Sounds like he’s defending President Jonathan’s limiting and discriminatory choice to sign this act. Ninety-eight percent of the Nigerian population, aka most of the country believes homosexuality should not be accepted by society. What’s most shocking is that Nigeria is not alone. Thirty-eight of the 54 countries in Africa criminalize homosexuality. In fact, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni also recently signed an anti-gay bill.
So the message for the yan daudu (Nigeria’s gay population) is comply, go to jail or die. This is a really sad time in our world. In America, we deal with a lot of hate and disdain towards the gay communities in the form of gay bashing, horrible jokes and slurs and extreme discrimination, but being gay has never been outlawed and enforced by law. Currently, 17 of our 50 states support same sex marriage while 33 of them have banned it completely. While these numbers aren’t the most impressive, it’s a step in the right direction of acceptance. Celebrities like Robin Roberts, Jason Collins and Michael Sam coming out of the closet and met with a warm embrace, American culture often sends the message that it’s ok to be gay. And it is. Gay only means that you love someone who is the same sex. What’s so wrong about that, huh…President Jonathan? (And pretty much all of Africa?)
Check out this gallery of openly gay Black celebs: