While equal rights for gays have been gaining increasing support in the US, this not so elsewhere. Russia and India have taken steps backward recently. But the harshest measures have been in Africa and in its most populous country. Despite considerable pressure from the global community, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a ban on same-sex marriage.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the bill passed by the Senate at the end of last year introduces a 14-year prison sentence for people who are convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union.
It also reportedly makes it an offense to administer, witness or help at a same-sex marriage ceremony.
NAN said the law also forbids people from running gay clubs, societies, processions or meetings in Nigeria. The punishment for such acts is 10 years in prison, it said.
And the law even states that marriages or civil unions from outside the country will be void inside the country, according to NAN.
It could get even worse. There is pending another bill that would make some acts punishable with life in prison.
Things are also bad in Uganda where a bill that criminalizes homosexuality is awaiting the president’s signature.
These moves are aided by anti-gay American evangelicals who seem to be trying to compensate in the developing world for their steady defeats in the developed world.
While Africa is not culturally, religiously or geopolitically monolithic, various observers attribute the broad agreement on anti-gay sentiment to several overlapping factors. First, many of the laws in Africa against homosexuality are rooted in British statutes, embedded in moral codes or indecency laws that are vestiges of the continent’s colonial legacy. Second, conservative religious branches of Christianity and Islam foment antipathy to LGBTI rights, and the influence of foreign evangelism fuels virulent homophobia. As religious leaders from abroad travel to Africa with the express goal of propagating intolerance, evangelical homophobia inspires increased Western gay activism, leading to further backlash against the perceived imposition of Western values.
The Daily Show had an interview with the director of a new documentary God Loves Uganda who says that American evangelicals seem to be obsessed with sex.
(This clip aired on January 13, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)