Nigeria seems certain to legislate one of the world's most sweeping and repressive antigay laws unless international pressure is bought to bear on the Nigerian government in the next few weeks, according to Peter Tatchell of the London-based LGBT rights group OutRage!
"We appeal to gay and human rights groups worldwide to take urgent action to press the Nigerian government to uphold international human rights law and to drop this draconian legislation," Tatchell said in a statement that called the bill being debated in Abuja's parliament "the most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed in any country in the world."
The law, approved by the Federal Executive Council and now before the National Assembly, levies a five-year automatic prison sentence not only on almost every expression of gay identity and sexuality but also on giving advice or support to lesbians or gay men.
Backed by Nigerian religious leaders including Anglican archbishop Peter Akinola, to whom several U.S. churches upset with the Episcopal Church's tolerance of gays have switched allegiance, it is expected to be passed into law within weeks.
On Friday retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu once again decried the antigay stance taken by some African Anglican leaders and urged them to concentrate on the continent's problems.
"To penalize somebody for their sexual orientation is the same as what used to happen to black South Africans for something about which we could do nothing," the South African Press Association quoted Tutu as saying.
Among other things, Tatchell said, Nigeria's proposed law "will outlaw membership of a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest, advocating gay equality, donating money to a gay organization, hosting or visiting a gay Web site, the publication or possession of gay safer-sex advice, renting or selling a property to a gay couple, expressions of same-sex love in letters or e-mails, attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and publishing, selling, or loaning a gay book or video."
Homosexuality is already illegal under Nigerian civil law and carries the death penalty in the northern regions of the country that are governed by Muslim Sharia law. (Stewart Who?, UK/Gay.com)