Americans, Here’s How You Can Help LGBTQ Nigerians

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Jan. 24 2014 5:50 PM

Americans, Here’s How You Can Help LGBTQ Nigerians

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan in Davos.

Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

Since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stealthily signed the anti-gay Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law on Jan. 7, the consequences have been predictably dire. Police in the northern state of Bauchi arrested 38 men they suspected of being gay, following leads they had obtained from four alleged gay men who were tortured into naming “gay people they knew in the area.” Eleven men are said to be on trial in an Islamic court “accused of being homosexuals” in Bauchi—one of the nine Nigerian states where shariah law also applies—they face being stoned to death if they are found guilty. Earlier this week, the AP reported that “thousands of protesters threw stones” into the court where the 11 men were being held, urging their “speedy convictions and executions.” These detentions are not limited to the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria, however. Amnesty International reported arrests across the country.

Human Rights Watch called upon President Jonathan to repeal the law, pointing out the many ways it threatens basic rights. (In my own limited experience of Nigeria—a 10-day trip during the 2007 election campaign—I was struck by citizens’ obsession with the rights guaranteed to them under the constitution.) But what can ordinary Americans do to help overturn this legislation?

Advertisement

Last week, the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights, a Nigerian group that fights for LGTBI rights (the I stands for intersex), put out a statement advising international allies how best to help them. The coalition encouraged “firm but quiet diplomatic action to stop the implementation of the law,” through private communications and letters to President Jonathan and other Nigerian politicians. Most crucially, though, the coalition asked that there be no talk of or threats “in public or private discussion” of “aid cutting, economic sanctions and embargoes.” Outsiders should also take pains, the coalition wrote, to avoid any advocacy “being perceived as intruding into domestic affairs in Nigeria.”

Given the hay that besieged politicians like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have made by attacking gays and the Western nations that defend their rights, this is probably wise. If only the Western religious groups that are often behind campaigns to further criminalize gay behavior in Africa would tend their own gardens.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How Moscow’s Anti-War March Revealed One of Russia’s Deepest Divides

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.