Where Anti-Gay Laws are Concerned, Nigeria Is No Russia
BY DAVID MIXNER
You bet Nigeria is no Russia. It is much worse than Russia.
While the LGBT community is jumping up and down (as we should be) about Russia, Sochi and the severe repression of Russia's gay community, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has just signed much more repressive legislation against LGBT citizens.
The repercussions of this new law are chilling.
Not only does the law ban marriage equality but also any LGBT relationship. If discovered, gay couples will be sentenced to fourteen years in jail. That is bad enough. However, it also provides for ten years in jail for forming any LGBT organization or supporting the formation of one. The law criminalizes even meetings between homosexuals.
Basically, you can now go to prison in Nigeria for owning an LGBT club, creating a LGBT social organization, supporting or forming an LGBT advocacy organization or simply meeting to discuss LGBT issues. The prison terms are harsh. The prison conditions are shockingly bad.
The odds of an LGBT African being sent to a Nigerian prison for ten to fourteen years and emerging alive are almost nil. Any such sentence is a death sentence.
Africa must be on LGBT Americans' radar screen as much as Russia. The conditions are rapidly deteriorating and tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters are impacted by these draconian laws. Uganda still has pending legislation waiting to be signed by its President that would trump Nigeria and give LGBT Ugandans a life sentence.
Secretary of State John Kerry has lobbied against the new Nigerian laws and quickly expressed America's shock and concern.
With all the dramatic problems facing Nigeria (including an insurgency that threatens its very existence as a nation state) why would President Jonathan be using political capital to pass and sign such legislation? It is exactly because of the Boko Haram insurgency that the President has signed the law. With his signature, he distracts his Christian followers from his failure to stop Boko Haram in the Islamic northern provinces.
Ironically, the anti-gay law only deepens the division in this frail nation state and in the end won't make a damn bit of difference in the direction of the emerging civil war. Don't be surprise to see political opponents arrested for 'homosexual conduct'.
LGBT Americans must put pressure on the Obama administration to take decisive action against Nigeria and Uganda now, or no nation in Africa will feel there is a price to be paid for these kind of horrific laws directed at LGBT Africans.