Bad News for Gay Rights in Africa

In depressing gay rights news, Nigeria has just passed a law effectively criminalizing homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is also now banned (the penalty for trying to challenge that rule is 14 years in prison) as is participation in gay groups (10 years in prison). Public displays of affection between couples are also now punishable with a long prison sentence. Amnesty International has called the bill "catastrophic."

"More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people," Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson's spokesperson, Reuben Abatim said. "And I think that this law is made for a people and what [the] government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment."

In the highly religious nation, 170 million people are divided, almost equally, among Christian and Muslim lines.

And then, gay Nigerians are also up against bogus studies like this, as Bustle reported:

According to a postgraduate student in Lagos, Nigeria, an experiment with magnets proves that homosexuality is unnatural. The student, Chibuihem Amalaha, claims that because magnetic poles repel like poles that “means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. That is how I used physics to prove gay marriage wrong.”

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of Africa, Uganda isn't doing much better: A parliamentary bill passed in December and now pending presidential signature would turn the country into a fearful, self-policing state for acts of homosexuality (including kissing).

Uganda, by the way, is the world's leader in googling gay porn. Giles Fraser of the Guardian writes of Uganda's pending bill:

But one of the features of reaction-formation is its paranoia and lack of proportion. And this is precisely what the scaremongering nonsense about gay people being out to get our children – a common line in the Ugandan debate – clearly demonstrates. In conservative religious environments where God is depicted as a powerful all-controlling parent, it makes sense to me that this reaction-formation will be particularly strong.

Which is why so much homophobia is rooted in religion or, as I would argue, in a form of bad religion that has a misplaced understanding of the divine. And I suspect also that this "bad God" is not unconnected with having been introduced as part of western colonialism with all the control and domination that this involved.

Is it a coincidence that some of Uganda's biggest pastors are being funded by American evangelical churches? Or that the anti-homosexuality bill's author, MP David Bahat, is a member of a hugely influential political group (we're talking Washington, D.C. institution with lots of political capital) that's Christian fundamentalist?

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