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Religious fanatics blamed for Nigeria’s draconian anti-gay bill, approved this week

NIGERIA has passed a bill that bans gay marriage, outlaws organisations supporting gay rights and sets prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders.

Principal architects of this draconian and fundamentally stupid piece of legislation are religious fanatics, foremost among them being the ghastly Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Archbishop Akinola

Archbishop Akinola

As far back as 2006, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell detected Akinola’s hand in a proposed Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. He wrote:

In the name of Christianity, Akinola and his Anglican hierarchy are endorsing the state oppression of their gay countrymen and women.

And Tatchell slammed the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for his failure to condemn “this church-endorsed homophobic persecution”.

Instead he embraces Akinola and the Nigerian church, appeasing their prejudice in the name of Anglican unity.

Akinola had welcomed the proposed legislation with the words:

The church commends the lawmakers … and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of all Nigerians regarding human sexuality.

In 2008, Akinola, in an address to the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, cited civil partnerships as a sign of Britain’s moral decline.

Oh, and sheep-shagging.

He said:

As a church we cannot but continue to decry the disturbing level of moral decadence and spiritual degradation eating deep into the soul of Western societies.  In the United Kingdom, all through Europe and in an ever-increasing number of states in America, legislators make laws to upturn the natural order and throw God away from the public domain.

Marriage and family life as we know them in the word of God have been jettisoned. People of the same sex are legally permitted to marry. Parents’ right to discipline their children is legally denied, the age of discretion that used to be 21 has been lowered to 18 and there are efforts at reducing it to 16 if not 14.

As if these are not bad enough, only last week the Tell magazine reported in its 36th edition on page 12 that a 27-year-old man was arrested for having sex with a sheep in Dulwich, south-east London.

The incident to which Akinola referred involved a Dulwich man who was collared on suspicion of carrying out a series of sex attacks on sheep at a farm in Bromley. The attacks left two animals dead and several others traumatised.

The Nigerian bill, which, as far as I know, makes no mention of farmyard animals, was passed this week by the House of Representatives. It will now go to President Goodluck Jonathan, to be signed into law. Whether he will approve it remains unclear, as both the US and the UK said the move could jeopardise foreign funding for Aids and HIV outreach programmes.

Nigeria’s Senate passed the bill in November 2011, but it did not emerge in the house until Thursday. Under previous versions of the bill, couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be jailed for 10 years.

Commenting on the latest development, Nigerian gay rights campaigner Damian Ugwu, said:

While we watch the flames of homophobia in Uganda with horror, the same fires are burning in countries around the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in Nigeria. The latest version of the deceptively named “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill” declares that the ‘public show of same sex amorous relationship [sic] directly or indirectly is hereby prohibited’. Incredibly, it would punish same-sex affection – yes, even a simple hug or kiss – with ten years in prison.

He added:

Supporters of the bill were given ample time to organise and mobilise their supporters, while LGBT activists and civil society organisations opposed to the bill were refused permission to attend the public hearing. Those who managed to scale the security barriers to attend the hearing were constantly jeered at and booed by religious fundamentalists while being intimidated by legislators.

He said that the Nigerian anti-gay bill should be “understood within the context of the sociopolitical crises within the country and the rise of Christian fundamentalism in Nigeria”.

The last 10 years in Nigeria have seen frightening levels of terrorism and religious and ethnic violence. At no time in the history of Nigeria is the unity of the country more threatened than in the present. Calls for “regional autonomy,” “true federalism” and “sovereign national conference” are becoming more strident. Such agitation represents the deep-seated mistrust Nigerian elites and ethnic leaders. For now, it seems that the only thing these leaders can agree on – and ditto for most Nigerians – is their love of football and their hatred of homosexuality.

This bill must be understood for what it is: a diversionary tactic by politicians to confuse the public and distract attention from pressing socioeconomic realities.

Commenting on the bill George Broadhead,  secretary of the UK gay charity, the Pink Triangle Trust, said:

This is shocking news. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals already face open discrimination and abuse in a country divided by Christians and Muslims who almost uniformly oppose homosexuality. In Nigeria’s north, where Islamic Sharia law has been enforced for about a decade, LGB people can face death by stoning.

 It seems that there is a very real threat that this draconian bill will become law and, if it does, Nigeria will become the most homophobic nation in Africa. Even in South Africa, the one country where gays can marry, lesbians have been brutally attacked and murdered.

 If the bill is enacted, the situation for LGB people in Nigeria will become completely untenable, setting a precedent that would threaten all Nigerians’ rights to privacy, equality, free expression and free association.

 It is clear that the impetus for such legislation has come from religious sources. The Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM), which has had financial support from the PTT, has been one of the few NGOs defending LGBT rights in the country. Its former executive director, Leo Igwe, deserves much credit for courageously speaking up for these rights in the country’s parliament.

27 Responses to “Religious fanatics blamed for Nigeria’s draconian anti-gay bill, approved this week”

  1. tony e says:

    Every time mankind tries to step forward, in it’s development, you are guaranteed that religion drags us back to the middle ages.

  2. barriejohn says:

    “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will beat your heads in!”

  3. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Nigeria is one of the most religious countries I have ever visited, religion gets dropped casually into the conversation all the time (I sometimes wonder if this is what it’s like in the southern US of A).

    It was in Nigeria that I had to suffer an interminable spouting of religious drivel by the other passengers as I was on a long distance bus. They took it in turn to preach at each other and there was no where to go to escape. This was before the days of ipads so there really was no escape (shudders at the memory).

  4. Michael Morley says:

    Je’s entitled to his opinion and if gays didnt keep telling everyone they are gay the whole thing would quieten down.

  5. Daz says:

    Michael Morley

    Pleaser, please tell me your comment is meant as sarcasm…

  6. missus_gumby says:

    I trust that the Nigerian top Anglican clerics never make use of anything related to computer technology. The list is very long.

  7. barriejohn says:

    As a church we cannot but continue to decry the disturbing level of moral decadence and spiritual degradation eating deep into the soul of Western societies. In the United Kingdom, all through Europe and in an ever-increasing number of states in America, legislators make laws to upturn the natural order and throw God away from the public domain.

    And we live safer, happier, and more fulfilling lives than those who preceded us could ever have imagined. If you doubt me, watch this:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p018400g

  8. barriejohn says:

    PS The BBC Tudor Season is proving to be wonderful television again, and brings another opportunity to watch that marvellous soap opera The Tudors. Religion has been such a force for good in the world!

  9. Angela_K says:

    A few hundred years ago the Nigerians along with the rest of Africa was happily going along nicely with its tribal customs and the local witch-doctor for guidance. Along come the Christian missionaries to tell the locals that they must abandon their thousands of years old customs to worship the Christan god and follow the bible to the letter. The Christian zealots lit the tinder knowing full well there would be a raging fire of hate and bigotry.

  10. Broga says:

    Angela_K: David Livingstone, a courageous and determined explorer and a missionary who made one convert, had a well founded contempt for Christian missionaries. Their activities in the South Seas were an abomination as they spread syphilis and they deliberately spread typhoid via impregnated blankets to native Americans. They were also ready, without protest and with tacit approval, to watch convicts sent to Australia being flogged till their bones showed. The missionary mind, poisoned by Christian superstition, spread its toxic message with their vile behaviour.

  11. Daz says:

    Broga & Angela_K

    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
          —Desmond Tutu

  12. Broga says:

    Daz: A superb quote. Over the years I have read a number of books about missionaries and they do seem, on the whole, like vicious, self serving scum. The exceptions being the books of Christian propaganda. When I was sent to Sunday School, an innocuous outfit run by naïve, likeable and well intentioned local young women, the missionaries were seen as heroes. We were encouraged to contribute to the collection, from time to time, “for the little black boys.” How the money got to the little black boys or what they did with it was never explained. What innocent times those were in my remote rural idyll.

  13. T says:

    I suspect the evil looking akinola is a devious and unscrupulous charlatan hiding behind a facade of piety. I wonder what he is hiding in his closet. Embezzlement, diversion of funds, child abuse, extortion, blackmail, grievous bodily harm, sexual deviance of some sort?

  14. Trevor Blake says:

    It would be almost comforting if these laws could be blamed on religious fanatics, because there aren’t many fanatics and so they can be contained. Laws like this are to be blamed not on a few fanatics, but on a large number of moderates who go along with a few fanatics. Think of any tyrant you like – he would not have come to power without the cooperation and support of thousands if not millions of others. Just so, when the millions of moderates change their minds, the fanatics follow. Christianity was for religion until (influenced by secular ethics) they were against it. This is why it is good to attack moderate religion. Everyone can see the fanatics are fanatics.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Broga:

    Over the sea there are little brown children,
    Fathers and mothers and babies dear;
    They have not heard of the Dear Lord Jesus,
    They do not know that God is near.
    Swift let the message fly over the water,
    Swift let the message fly over the sea;
    Swift let the message fly over the water,
    Telling the children that God is near.

    We sang that one every week, and even at Junior School age I thought it was appallingly condescending. (I must have been a strange chid, as I remember quite clearly thinking how insulting to black people the story of Little Black Sambo and the butter was!)

    These poor dears are all dewy-eyed over this codswallop:

    http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Music/Question362546.html

  16. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Take a look at this!

    http://www.kenmure-church.co.uk/chapter6.html

    See this little penny, it was brought by me,
    For the little children far across the sea.
    Hurry penny quickly, though you are so small;
    Help to tell God’s children Jesus loves them all.

    Hear the pennies dropping,
    Listen as they fall,
    Every one for Jesus, he shall have them all.
    Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping,
    Hear the pennies fall;
    Every one for Jesus, he shall have them all.

    They don’t seem in the least bit embarrassed recounting all their experiences, do they?

  17. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: Yup, on target. You caught the tone. And round the wall of the church hall were large colourful paintings of scenes from the bible. Jesus and his disciples were all white and dressed in flowing robes. One of the verses we were taught was:

    Grow like a tree strong and fine,
    Smile as you go, never whine,
    Travel with courage, climb or plod,
    Live as Jesus did, near to God.

    When my doubts surfaced in adolescence they came as a hell of a shock and I had a big extended family. They couldn’t figure what had happened as belief, without examination, was taken for granted. None of them, so dismissive of my scepticism and questioning, could provide a persuasive response to my questions.

    I’m sure many people of my generation shared these experiences.

  18. Matt+Westwood says:

    And don’t forget, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Things_Bright_and_Beautiful

    3. (deleted due to sensitivity)
    ?The rich man in his castle
    The poor man at his gate
    He made them High and lowly
    He ordered their estate?

  19. Daz says:

    Or, as I prefer it a bit blunter…

    The fat-cat Wall Street conman,
    The hungry at his gate,
    All are equal in God’s eyes,
    (But they must know their place).

  20. Marky Mark says:

    (Marriage and family life as we know them in the word of God have been jettisoned. People of the same sex are legally permitted to marry.)
    …Ok, it has been proven that adultery is one of the most harming events to any family, and the holy bable calls for death to adulterers…are they going to pass similar laws for adultery? Or did god not really mean that one cuz most religious folks DO participate in this anti-family values act.

    (Parents’ right to discipline their children is legally denied)
    …because the religious folks took their discipline to the extreme causing abuse, and it is because of them that we now have laws against child abuse.
    Read about Sylvia Likens and how the religious women who had temporary care for her decided to discipline Sylvia…until Sylvia dies after a month of starvation and physical abuse. A most horrible crime against a child.
    And sure enough, this woman and her daughter, who inflicted most of the harm to Sylvia, were released early from prison once they were “Born Again” while incarcerated.

    All one has to say in a red state here in the USA is “God has forgiven me” and your crimes no longer matter…even for cold blooded murderers.

  21. 1859 says:

    Recently had a holiday in Rarotonga – a lonely island almost in the middle of the Pacific. It’s almost circular and there is one tarred road right round about 10 miles long. We drove round and literally every mile there was a huge christian church – a very well-painted, well-kept church, each one some weird denomination or other (The Baptist Federation of Holy Jesus – The Church of the Holy Sacrament – The Johova Church etc., etc) These churches were in such good order because the local Rarotongans cleaned and painted the church, swept the grounds and cut the lawns for FREE – while they lived in rather meager circumstances. And this plethora of daft christian churches is common throughout the entire Pacific region. I worked with a group of ‘Marist’ brothers in the islands and while they prayed every morning before the start of school I stood there trying to keep the lid on my pressure cooker mouth – they never once doubted whether they had the right to do what they were doing day in day out to the islanders and to their children. The result? Pacific islanders are fervent, blind believers – and if you dare question their beliefs they will eat you alive while singing the praises of jesus!!

  22. Tom80 says:

    @1859
    ” I worked with a group of ‘Marist’ brothers in the islands and while they prayed every morning before the start of school I stood there trying to keep the lid on my pressure cooker mouth ”

    Why did you stay and pray with them if it was against your conscience? Surely they would not have minded if you said that you were sorry but you could not pray with them as you are an atheist.

  23. jay says:

    “Whether he will approve it remains unclear, as both the US and the UK said the move could jeopardise foreign funding for Aids and HIV outreach programmes.”

    So not only will people suffer from this obscene law, but innocent, sick people are going to suffer from the US and UK method of retaliation.

    Wonderful.

  24. 1859 says:

    Tom80: No way did I pray! The pressure cooker was in my head and my mouth was firmly zipped. I said nothing and let them get on with their mumbo jumbo because, at the time, I needed a job – just to pay the airfare to get off the island and back to some secular sanity!

  25. […] and scepticism in his country. Given its shocking decision this week to pass anti-gay legislation freethinker.co.uk/2013/06/01/religious-fanatics-blamed-for-nigerias-draconian-anti-gay-bill-approved… – a move driven largely by religious zealots – there has never been a more important time to […]

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