Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Anti-gay bill to make it easier for asylum seekers

Several persons seeking compromise means of travelling and settling in parts of Europe and United States of America may have had a travel-made-easy process, as their claim to being gay could brighten their chances of seeking asylum in such countries.

Following the recent passage of the Same-Sex Prohibition Bill by the Senate, where a jail sentence of 14 years is prescribed for any offender, several Nigerians desperate to obtain entry visas to occidental countries, now claim persecution and discrimination on account of being homosexuals.

The United Kingdom and America have opposed the passage of the anti-gay bill in Nigeria, with the UK threatening to withhold aids to Nigeria if gay rights were not restored. The American President Barrack Obama has charged the US ambassadors to fight for the protection of gay rights, across board.

The strategy of hanging on to this window of curious opportunity is already playing out as a Nigerian student studying in the UK, who was facing deportation threat, recently claimed that he would be persecuted and even jailed in Nigeria if he was deported, because he is gay.

The student, Hope Nwachukwu, studying at Warwick University in the UK has claimed that he faces being whipped and jailed for up to 14 years in Nigeria after he was threatened with deportation by British authorities.

The 34 year-old asylum seeker, convinced fellow students to hold a candlelit vigil in Coventry to escape the wrath of the authorities and drive home his quest to remain in the UK.

Nwachukwu was apparently taking advantage of the recently passed bill by the Senate which stipulates a 14-year jail term for a person who enters the contract of marriage with a member of the same sex.

According to the Senate, a person – or group of persons – who witnesses, abets and aids the solemnisation of a gay marriage may receive up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of N5,000. The bill is, at present, with the House of Representatives for endorsement.

Coventry Telegraph reported that for Nwachukwu’s sake, students at Warwick University staged a talk and a candlelit vigil on the piazza outside the student union building to highlight his case.
He came to Britain in 2009 and began working in a warehouse with fake ID but was found out and kept in a detention centre for six months.

However, his supporters said UK’s Home Office views his case with suspicion because he has not been in a relationship since arriving in the UK.

Elsewhere at the Nigerian House in London, a demonstration was organised by Nigerians who wanted the Senate to reverse its earlier decision to ban same-sex marriage. But opposition against the practice has continued to mount as it is largely considered as a taboo and an act described as “grossly ungodly”.

The demonstration called “kiss-in” is organised by Nigerian gays in the Diaspora Against Anti-Same-Sex Laws. The group's Nigerian Coordinator, Yemisi Ilesanmi, said: “Outside the embassy, Nigerian LGBTI people and our allies will hold hands, hug and kiss as a gesture of defiance against the proposed ban on same-sex marriage and in solidarity with our Nigerian LGBTI brothers and sisters. Come and join us to kiss goodbye to this bill and the sodomy laws. International solidarity knows no borders.

“The new Nigerian bill aims to further criminalise same-sex relationships. Already, consensual same-sex conduct between adults is a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years imprisonment and in some parts of the country there is the death penalty under Sharia law.
“Lawmakers are fast tracking the bill. The bill has already passed its second reading," she added.

Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, will attend the kiss-in.

“This proposed new law violates the equality and non-discrimination guarantees of Article 42 of the Nigerian Constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, which Nigeria has signed and pledged to uphold," Tatchell said.

But hard as the gay community is fighting to kick against the coming law, most Nigerians from all walks of life and class have continued to commend the courage of the Senate in knocking a long nail in the coffin of gay practice in Nigeria.

Over the weekend, President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, declared that the Senate did Nigeria proud by passing the bill against same-sex marriage. Indeed, the Senate had dared the Western nations to withhold their financial aids, if it will be given in exchange for the desecration of the cultural values of Nigerians. Pastor Oritsejafor described the move to legitimise same-sex marriage as “an aberration and an abomination and it is evil like this that is shutting the heavens on us as a nation, because really something is not right with us as a nation”.

Another clergyman, Rt Rev Peter Adebiyi, the Anglican Bishop of the Lagos West Diocese, who has been virulent in his opposition of same-sex marriage especially in the church, has remained opposed to the practice and explained that homosexuality is a hindrance to the work of God among mankind.

This Day

Related stories: Nigeria rejects U.S. criticism over anti-gay law

Britain won't accept Nigeria's anti-gay law

14 years jail term for same sex marriage offenders

Bill banning gay marriage approved in Nigeria

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