Moral Low Ground

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Signs Law Punishing Gays with 14 Years in Prison

Nigeria’s president has quietly signed into law a bill approved last year by parliament that punishes gays with lengthy prison sentences.

President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which criminalizes gay marriages and civil unions and punishes gay couples who openly display their relationships with 14 year behind bars. The law also bans gay rights organizations, including groups dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS, in the nation with the second-highest population of HIV-positive citizens.

“This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination,” presidential spokesman Reuben Abati told the Associated Press. “It is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people…. Nigerians are pleased with it.”

Since parliament approved the draconian law on December 17, dozens of gay men have been arrested in the northern, mostly Muslim, part of Nigeria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the Nigerian law as a human rights violation. In a statement expressing “deep concern,” the State Department asserted that the law “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.” Britain and Canada were among the other Western nations that condemned the law.

Voice of America reports the overwhelming majority of Nigerians seem to support the discriminatory law:

“I feel highly delighted and very grateful to God above all because it is a line in the right direction,” said one person in Abuja.

“I support the federal government because this thing is against the two religions. It’s very, very, very bad,” said another.

“Actually it is the right thing. They were supposed to have done it even before. It was supposed to have been even in our constitution,” said still another person.

According to a June 2013 Pew Research Center poll on global attitudes toward homosexuality, fully 98 percent of Nigerians believe that society should not accept homosexuality. Nigerians were the most intolerant toward gays of all the 39 nations surveyed.

Nigeria is one of 38 African countries, or about 70 percent of the continent’s nations, that have criminalized homosexuality. Most recently, Ugandan lawmakers, with the help of US evangelical Christian anti-gay crusaders, passed a bill that punishes homosexual acts with life imprisonment, with long prison terms for anyone who associates with gays. The measure awaits the signature of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

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