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Nigeria to United States: Mind Your Own Business

Nigeria to United States: Mind Your Own Business


The federal government of Nigeria, which could soon implement a law that would broadly criminalize homosexuality, responded to the new American focus on LGBT human rights abroad with a simple message: Butt out.

Minister of Information Labaran Maku released a statement Wednesday reported by African media including Ghana MMA. He responded to the groundbreaking memo from President Barack Obama and speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday that announced the U.S. would more fully integrate LGBT rights into its foreign policy.

The aggressive new stance could put the United States on a diplomatic collision course with Nigeria. A bill that would criminalize same-sex unions with prison sentences of up to 14 years passed the senate last week and has now been introduced in the house of representatives, according to Agence France-Presse. The list of punishable offenses extends beyond same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in Nigeria, to include public displays of affection, and international observers have expressed concerns that the bill could hamper HIV/AIDS services delivery, among other critical areas.

In the statement, Maku appealed to sovereignty and individual cultural norms. Secretary Clinton explicitly refuted such arguments in a speech in Geneva that declared "gay rights are human rights."

"But at any rate, between Europe, America and Africa there is a huge culture gap," said Maku. "Some of the things that are considered fundamental rights abroad also can be very offensive to African culture and tradition and to the way we live our lives here," he said. "I said this (prohibition of same-sex marriage) has not become a law, but sometimes we get worried by comments that are made."

While he defended Nigeria's consideration of the law as an issue of "democracy," Maku repeatedly emphasized that the bill has not yet become law. President Goodluck Jonathan is under pressure from international activists, who have coordinated a campaign urging him to reject the measure if and when it arrives for approval.

"The reported comments by the US Government about the proposed law by the Senate about same-sex marriage in Nigeria have not fully come to government for a position," continued Maku. "But let me say this, we live in a democracy, we live in a free country, we live in an independent country and in every democracy as you know, there are institutions, there are laws and also there are cultures, there are beliefs and values in every nation."

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