Monday, August 20, 2007

18 Nigerians Facing Sharia Death Sentence for Being Gay

Talk about out of the loop. I just received an email from Grupo Gay da Bahia president Marcelo Cerqueira decrying the failure of Candomblé practioners to speak out against the condemnation to death of 18 men in northern Nigeria under the Islamic Sharia-based criminal laws there. That led me to google the story, and here's the first link, from 18 Men Face Death Penalty in Nigeria.

(In Marcelo's statement on the GGB site and in his email, he opens with GGB founder and noted anthroplogist and historian Luiz Mott's statement that "Silence is death. And the silence of Brazilian adepts of the African mother religion in relation to the condemnation to death of the 18 homosexuals in Nigeria is a criminal omission." Mott goes on to note that GGB is launching an appeal to all the babalorixás e yalorixás from Bahia and the rest of Brazil to send a protest to the president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, urging him to respect the law of the orixás, which never condemned homosexual love." Marcelo also mentions several scholars of Yoruba religion who point to the fact that important pais and mães de santo in Nigeria were known to be "adé" and "aló," Yoruba terms referring to gays and lesbians. GGB and Quimbanda Dudu, Bahia's Black LGBT organization, had already protested against Nigeria's pending anti-gay laws in front of Salvador's Casa da Nigéria, in March, and have called on Brazil's president, Inácio Lula da Silva, to once again take a bold stand and offer sanctuary to the 18 condemned men as he did back in 2002, when he and Senegal's president, Abdoulaye Wade, offered asylum to Amina Lawal, the Nigerian widow who was sentenced to death by stoning for giving birth outside of marriage.)

Below I've reprinted the entire story, which also discusses the horrific legal situation that people convicted of homosexual acts face not only in the predominantly Muslim north of the country and the particular "panic" around the issue of cross-dressing and same-sex marriage (both of whose local forms have origins in specific cultural traditions in what is now Nigeria), but the looming extreme situation that gays across Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with more than 130 million people, will face if a new law that completely strips lesbians, gays and transgender people of any civil rights and penalizes even the distribution of LGBT literature or information is passed and goes into effect.
(Lagos) Eighteen Nigerian men have been found guilty of sodomy by a Sharia judge in the Islamic northern part of the country. The men are awaiting sentencing and under Sharia, or Islamic law, they could be sentenced to death.

The official government news agency Nan reports that the men were arrested in a hotel in north-eastern Bauchi State.

Bauchi is one of a number of northern states which recognizes Sharia law. Elsewhere in the country gay sex carries sentences up to 14 years behind bars.

If sentenced to death the court decision would need the approval of the state governor.

Nan reports that the men were wearing women's clothes when they were arrested and had gone to the hotel to celebrate a gay wedding.

The government frequently alleges that men arrested for being gay were dressed as women and were attending or preparing to attend gay weddings.

More than a dozen men have been sentenced to death in recent years for alleged homosexuality. In most cases their fate is unknown.

Meanwhile, the government is moving ahead with legislation that would strip gays and lesbians of all civil rights.

The bill started out as a ban on same-sex marriage and has been revised to make it a crime for more than two gay people to be in the same venue at the same time.

It prohibits LGBT social or civil rights groups from forming. It would be illegal to sell or rent property to same-sex couples, watch a gay film or video, visit an LGBT web site, or express same-sex love in a letter to one's partner.

The legislation goes so far as to make it a criminal offense to impart information of HIV/AIDS to gays or for non-gays to meet with any group of gays for any purpose.

The penalty would be five years in prison with hard labor.

The most recent arrests have sparked outrage in Britain and is likely to scuttle Nigeria's bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

A movement by LGBT rights activists to block the Nigerian bid began before the arrests and appeared to be gaining broader support on Friday.

Mike Hooper, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation - the organization that will make the decision about the games venue - said Friday that Nigeria should be rejected on the grounds of the country’s homophobic oppression.

The southern half of Nigeria is predominantly Anglican. The primate of the Nigerian Church is Archbishop Peter Akinola who has been at the forefront of opposing gay clergy in the denomination. Conservative Anglican churches in the US have aligned themselves with Akinola.

A different report appears in the Lagos-based Daily Champion, courtesy of

A quote:

In June an agency tasked with implementing shari'ah law in Bauchi called on the new state governor Isa Yuguda to approve three sentences of death by stoning and 40 of amputation passed since 2002 which his predecessor had refused to ratify.*

The death sentences were passed for sexual offences, including one for sodomy.
STONING AND AMPUTATION! I am not making this up! (*Both emphases are mine.)

Yet another report, from the BBC News: "Gay Nigerians Face Sharia Death," which notes that most of the extreme sentences, which have also been handed out for other alleged sexual crimes, such as adultery, have not been carried out, but that two amputations had been effected in Nigeria's northwestern Zamfara State.

When I went to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign's (IGLHRC) site, the last statement on this issue was from February 2007, announcing a report: "IGLHRC's New Report Documents LGBT Nigerians' Response to the Same-Sex Prohibition Act." (This is a .pdf file.)

In this press release, IGLHRC gives the address for Nigeria's ambassador to the US. They urge that people concerned with the pending legislation politely contact the ambassador. His info:

His Excellency Professor George A. Obiozor
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 362-6552

In light of this most recent news, I would add that contacting the US ambassador to Nigeria might also be a good idea. The previous ambassador, Bush-appointee John Campbell, has stepped down, and as of July 19, 2007, the acting Chargé d'Affaires is Robert Gribben. Here is his information:

Mr. Robert E. Gribbin
Chargé d'Affaires
Ambassador to Nigeria
Embassy of the United States of America
Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central District Area, Abuja, Nigeria
Telephone: (234)-9-461-4000
Fax: (234)-9-461-4036

One of the sites that documents some of the crises LGBT people are facing around the globe is Direland. I may be wrong, but I think there's been comparatively little reporting about ongoing massacre of gay Iraqis, though Doug Ireland has written on this topic more than once. On a different note, Andrés (El Blabbeador) at Blabbeando was recently visiting Colombia, and among many other interesting posts links to a Miami Herald article on the gay rights advances occurring there.

Now what was that about "post-gay"...?


  1. Correction: I was in Colombia but am back in the city (even if I wanted to spend a few more months down there!). Hehe...

  2. Thanks, Andrés. I'll make the correction!