Updated Monday lunchtime
This roundup from Religion Dispatches summarises the situation:
Nigeria and Uganda: Harsh Anti-Gay Legislation Passes
Harsh anti-gay laws that had been pending for years in both Nigeria and Uganda received legislative approval.
The Nigerian bill is called the Anti Same-Sex Marriage bill, but it does much more than ban and punish same-sex marriage with 14 years in prison. It calls for up to 10 years jail time for those who “aid and abet” same-sex marriages and for public displays of affection as well as public or private advocacy – even the creation of social clubs. The fate of the “Jail the Gays” law now rests with President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is divided between a mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, and has dealt this year sectarian violence. According to a Daily Trust story on the bill’s passage, “Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC, Yobe) said Nigeria is a religious country and the two major religions do not accept same sex marriage.” Nigerian student Udoka Okafor has published an open letter to the president, which invokes Nelson Mandela as an example for the country to follow.
In Uganda, where some U.S. religious conservatives have actively backed anti-gay forces there, parliament passed anti-gay legislation that had been pending for years. Once known as the “kill the gays bill,” the legislation as passed did not include the death penalty but makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison. The bill was pushed through even though Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi protested the lack of a quorum.
Passage was celebrated by Martin Ssempa, an outspoken anti-gay pastor who is allied with conservative evangelicals in the U.S., and it was applauded by the Anglican Church in Uganda. On Christmas, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira praised the legislation and urged parliament to pass a ban on abortion as well.
Gay Star News reported on Dec 26 that in response to demand from Apostle Joseph Serwadda, leader of Pentecostal churches in the country, the he sign the bill, president Museveni said he would review it carefully before deciding whether to sign it. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin explains that under the Ugandan constitution, the president does not have the power to veto the bill but can return it to Parliament twice, at which point it would need a two-thirds majority to become law.
Human Rights Watch released a video warning of violence against LGBT people and urged the president not to sign the bill. The White House reiterated its opposition to the bill, and a Christmas Eve statement from Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, read:
We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons.
The European Union and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office also released statements. Several news reports noticed the challenge facing western governments whose pro-equality advocacy is depicted as neo-colonial interference.
There is a press briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights here.
More detail on the Nigerian bill is in this Buzzfeed report from Lester Feder.
See also this report from Human Rights Watch.
Comments by Changing Attitude are included at the end of this article.
Extensive comment by Changing Attitude is now published in Stark choices face the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 2014.