Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nigeria rejects U.S. criticism over anti-gay law

The Federal Government of Nigeria, yesterday, rejected the criticism by the United States Government following Senate’s outlawing of same sex marriage, insisting that same sex marriage is not only alien to Nigeria’s social and cultural believes but also undemocratic since majority of Nigerians are against it.

The government, therefore, asked the US and other countries opposed to the Senate’s passage of the bill banning same sex marriage, to respect Nigerians’ independence, democracy and sovereignty.

This came as the Senate, yesterday, insisted that the law banning same sex marriage in Nigeria remains while members of House of Representatives have vowed that the decision by President Obama to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians abroad by using foreign aid and diplomacy would not deter the House from passing the bill on same sex marriage.

Meanwhile, the US also vowed to use diplomacy and $3 million in foreign aid to help expand the rights of gays.

Disclosing this during the World Human Rights Day, US Secretary of States, Mrs Hillary Clinton, argued that the definition of human rights must be amended to account for sexual diversity.

Fielding questions from State House Correspondents, after a prolonged weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, maintained that Nigeria was an independent country and reserved the right to make laws through democratic institutions to govern the country.

While urging the US government and citizens to respect Nigeria’s democratic institutions such as her elected lawmakers, the minister said if the ban on same sex marriage eventually becomes law, it therefore means that majority of Nigerians want the existing ban legalised.

Maku said although the Senate action alone had not made the bill a law, Nigeria reserved the right to make laws based on the peoples’ values and culture.

Maku said: “We reserve the right to make laws without apologies to anyone. Our laws will be guided by our own interests and values.”

He also noted that foreign countries that were not happy with laws made in Nigeria were free to express their views “but they should also know how our democracy works.”

According to him, “let me say this, the reported comments by the US Government about the proposed law by the Senate about same sex marriage in Nigeria has not fully come to government for a position. But let me say this, we live in a democracy, we live in a free country, we live in an independent country. And in every democracy, as you know, there are institutions, there are laws and also there are cultures, there are beliefs and values in every nation.

“The proposed law by the Senate, as you know Senate has passed a version of a law relating to same sex marriages, that law has not yet gone through House of Representatives not to talk of becoming a law that will be forwarded to the president for assent.

“It is a process that is going on normally through the Nigerian legislature, the same way every law is passed in every democracy, we have not reached that point where it has become law.

“But even if it does become law, as you do know, Nigeria reserves the right as an independent nation to live under laws that are democratically passed by the National Assembly.”

Ban stays—Senate

Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who reacted to a memo by the President of the United States, Obama, calling on US missions abroad to resist any discrimination against same sex marriages, said the action of the Senate was for the interest of Nigeria.

Abaribe maintained that the US directive did not in any way affect Nigeria, noting that the Senate has completed its work on same sex marriage law.

He further ruled out the possibility of diplomatic row between the two countries on account of the law, adding that both countries are sovereign states with jurisdictions to make law to govern themselves without outside interferences.

He said: “The Nigerian Senate will have no reaction to a directive that was given by the President of the United States to their employees. They are giving directives to their missions abroad; we have nothing to say about that. It is their internal affairs.

“Whatever they do is their own business, the business of the Nigerian Senate is to make laws, good laws for Nigeria and for those living within the territory boundaries of Nigeria and the Nigerian Senate has already done what it feels it is in the best interest of Nigeria and the matter has ended in the Senate as far as we are concern and now we move to the next stage of law making which is to be passed in the House of Representatives subsequently to go to the President of Nigeria for assent.”

In interviews with Vanguard in Abuja shortly after the Bill on same sex marriage was officially read on the floor of the House, a cross section of members of the House remained adamant in their opposition to same sex marriage, saying “American values cannot be imposed on us by the American government.”

In his reaction, Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie, said Nigeria could not be arm-twisted by America to trade its value system just because it wants to play to the sentiments of the American public.

“It is only appropriate that as Africans we uphold out cherished traditional values. It is scriptural that marriages are recognised between a man and a woman. It debases our value when you begin to tolerate marriage between people of same sex. For me, I believe this is one bill that is popular and will enjoy the support of majority of members of the House.

On his part, Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, Hon. Herman Hembe dismissed the American position as a non-issue that would have no impact on the decision of the House.

He said: “How can the American president want to dictate to us how to make laws in our country? The whole issue smacks of colonial arrogance which will only serve to galvanise all members of parliament to ensure that the Bill is passed.

Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor said: “President Obama has goofed in his reaction. Why would America want to dictate to a sovereign country which law to make and which one not to make? How can the depraved ways of a minority become the standard for law making in Nigeria? The bill will enjoy overwhelming support in the House of Representatives and no amount of threat can make us change our mind.”

US earmarks $3m to expand rights of gay

According to her, “some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct, but in fact they are one and the same. Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

“Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. “

In addition, Clinton said, “Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse.

They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm. I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”


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