By Gudrun Schultz
ANGOLA, Nigeria, February 15, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Nigerian House of Representatives is considering a bill that would make homosexuality illegal, proposing a five-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of engaging in or promoting homosexual activity, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The measure was first introduced in April 2006 as a prohibition against homosexual “marriage” and has since been expanded to include bans on the public expression of homosexuality.
The bill is likely to pass, Parliamentary sources said, in a country with strong cultural opposition to homosexuality. Both chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly are expected to ratify the proposal by the end of March, in time for the April elections.
The measure has been supported by the influential Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, engaged in intensive debate this week over the acceptance of homosexual clergy in the Western Anglican Church. Pivotal meetings of the world-wide Anglican Communion began Feb.12 in Tanzania on the divisive issue, which has led to the growing likelihood of schism in the Church.
The law has received the support of the Christian Association of Nigeria, as well as the National Muslim Centre, which called homosexual activity immoral and said it “runs contrary to our cultural and religious values.”
Deputy Speaker Austin Opara said, in support of the measure, that he did not want Nigerians to forget their “religious and cultural backgrounds.”
The proposal is controversial, with opponents warning the detailed prohibitions could lead to human rights abuses—the law would prohibit pro-homosexual organizations or public gatherings and the sale of property to gay couples, among other restrictions.
“We should not be hypocritical here. I think we should deal with this subject dispassionately. While we are trying to protect morals and values, we must also remember to protect people’s rights even if they are a minority,” said MP Abdul Oroh.
Many of the objections to the measure were voiced by NGO representatives in reference to the supposed increase in HIV infections that would follow, an argument undermined by the escalating HIV infection rates among homosexual communities in Western countries where the practice receives legislative protection.
“Failing to acknowledge that sex between men will only increase the vulnerability of men – and women – to HIV infection, since men who cannot talk about their sexual orientation are less likely to seek appropriate support services,” said Dr Pierre Mpele, the UNAids country co-ordinator in Nigeria, echoing UNAIDS arguments for the legalization of homosexuality in India.
AIDS organizations in Australia warned in November that HIV infection rates were soaring in Sydney’s homosexual community, with infection rates rivaling that of African nations at between 10% and 18%.
Last year in New South Wales 954 people were diagnosed with HIV, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, and almost three-quarters of those infected caught the disease through homosexual activity. The steady rise in HIV/AIDS infection rates has been attributed to a growing laxity towards protection among the homosexual community.
See related LifeSiteNews coverage:
Nigeria Bans Same Sex ‘Marriage’ – Un-African” Says Justice Minister
India’s Ban on Homosexuality Violates Gay Human Rights, UNAIDS Charges