Tuesday, August 21, 2007

18 Nigerians Facing Sharia Death Sentence for Being Gay

I've been aware for the past year or so that the Nigerian government has been taking an increasingly hostile stance to gays and lesbians. But I wasn't aware of the extremity of punishment in the Islamic north. I know it's naive of me, but these past few years find I keep asking myself whatever happened to the judicious and tolerant Islam I studied in school? Although, it wasn't communicated to me as a uniform theological quality, it was identified as a strong aspect of the religion's ethos.

From j's theater comes this report. I'm linking to his entry on it, instead of creating a full summary here. I will quote some details from reportage on the case:

"Eighteen Nigerian men have been found guilty of sodomy by a Sharia judge in the Islamic northern part of the country. The men are awaiting sentencing and under Sharia, or Islamic law, they could be sentenced to death.

"The official government news agency Nan reports that the men were arrested in a hotel in north-eastern Bauchi State.

"Bauchi is one of a number of northern states which recognizes Sharia law. Elsewhere in the country gay sex carries sentences up to 14 years behind bars...."

"Nan reports that the men were wearing women's clothes when they were arrested and had gone to the hotel to celebrate a gay wedding.

"The government frequently alleges that men arrested for being gay were dressed as women and were attending or preparing to attend gay weddings.

More than a dozen men have been sentenced to death in recent years for alleged homosexuality. In most cases their fate is unknown."

In addition, the government has been taking steps to strip gays and lesbians (and presumably bisexuals and transgenders/transsexuals as well) of all their civil rights, even to the point of making a non-gay meeting with a gay group for any reason illegal. The law would also make criminal the distribution of any information on AIDS/HIV illegal. Both of these would be punishable by 5 years imprisonment with hard labor. Apparently there are also cases of death by stoning and amputation punishments in the same Bauchi, Nigeria where these 18 men are being held.

The j's theater post includes a number of links to background resource materials as well as contact information for the US Ambassador to Nigeria and the Nigerian Ambassador to the US.

Endnote I: As long as BET is willing to sling cultural dirty laundry across the airwaves to make money, isn't this the sort of "hot mess" they ought to be addressing? Black people willing to actually kill and maim other black people, using state sanctioned horrific methods, as punishment for sexual orientation. Recently, commentary on the U.S. focus on gay rights as a source of national instability has emerged with the "It's All Because (The Gays Are Getting Married)" music video making the rounds on YouTube parodying the argument that outlawing gay rights and marriage would make for stronger heterosexual marriages and family values, and comic Wanda Sykes offered up her own commentary on the absurdity of that argument in a bit also available on YouTube.

Endnote II: For more on the unfortunate advisement that is BET's renamed "We Got to Do Better" check out Race Wire, the ColorLines Blog and Jay Smooth's ill*doctrine blog entry on the premier show.


At 7:26 AM, Blogger John K said...

Audiologo, thanks for the shout out. I haven't seen the YouTube video, so I'll avoid it. (I was so mesmerized by all these singing cat videos yesterday that I almost couldn't turn away!) As for the horrorshow that is HGM aka as Lord-knows-what, C and I watched bits of the first episode, and I refuse to watch any more or discuss it at all. I keep thinking that Baldwin Hills, with its impossibly innocent youth and involved parents, functions as a kind of counterweight, whether the BET programmers realize it or not; what's also interesting is that it's not just the young bourgie kids who demonstrate "values" and "respectability," but the two young people from Compton (or is it Crenshaw?), who viewers learn haven't had an easy time, are portrayed movingly in their struggle to define themselves, gain control and autonomy over their lives, and show respect for their elders and those around them. The young woman Staci, in particular, almost deserves her own show. I'm thinking especially about her recent conversation with her mother, in which she paid her tribute and expressed her deep concern over her niece, only a few years younger, who had gotten pregnant (and who was later shown spouting the kind of nonsensical anti-abortion rhetoric that has obvious sedimented in the popular consciousness! :-<). The sheer awkwardness and pathos of the exchanges were proof that no one could have--or would have, given how young Black folks are regularly portrayed--scripted them.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger audiologo said...

Thanks for the Baldwin Hills update. Interesting hear about that different portrait of young black folk, and upended popular sentiments about higher economic class=higher sense of virtue. Too bad it's not on DVD. I'll just have to look forward to your reports!

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