December 9, 2011
Nigeria's House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced an anti-gay bill despite recent US and UK government moves aimed at supporting LGBT rights internationally. Passed by the Senate last week, the House bill would outlaw same-sex marriage, public displays of same-sex affection and gay organizations. The prospect of making gay organizations illegal has led some advocates to speculate whether funding to non-governmental organizations fighting HIV/AIDS could be jeopardized.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama ordered all US government agencies to take steps to encourage foreign nations to respect LGBT rights. However, US foreign policy statements stopped short of any warning that transgressor nations could be stripped of aid. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has warned his government will consider withholding aid from countries that do not recognize LGBT rights.
"We have a culture. We have religious beliefs and we have a tradition. We are black people. We are not white," said Zakari Mohammed, a lawmaker and spokesperson for the House. Same-sex marriage "is alien to our culture and we can never give it a chance. So if [Western nations] will withhold their aid to us, to hell with them."
"We live in a democracy, we live in a free country, we live in an independent country," said Labaran Maku, information minister and cabinet member. "Some of the things that are considered fundamental rights abroad . . . can be very offensive to African culture."
Mohammed promised tougher penalties than those proposed in the bill, which now stand at 14 years prison for same-sex marriage, 10 years for abetting same-sex marriage, and 10 years for "any person who ... directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships."
The House did not debate the bill or set a date to take it up. If approved, it would go to President Goodluck Jonathan for his consideration.