Nigeria: Anti-gay bill would hinder fight against AIDS

David Mark, president of the Nigerian Senate. (Photo courtesy of ynaija.com)
David Mark, president of the Nigerian Senate. (Photo courtesy of Ynaija.com)

AIDS activist Stephen Chukwumah of Nigeria recently described the complications that would be created for people battling AIDS if Nigeria enacts the so-called “Jail the Gays Bill,” which the Senate passed on Dec. 18 and asked President Goodluck Jonathan to sign.

If he signs the bill into law, Nigeria would impose prison sentences of up to 14 years on any Nigerian who entered into a same-sex marriage and up to 10 years to anyone attending a same-sex wedding in Nigeria. It apparently would also provide prison sentences of up to 10 years for anyone who supported LGBT-friendly organizations or meetings.

Chukwumah’s arguments against the bill appeared in  an open letter to David Mark, president of the Nigerian Senate, which was published in Ynaija.com,  GreenBiro.com and NaijaLoudSpeaker.  This is an excerpt from that letter:

Stephen Chukwumah
Stephen Chukwumah

Sen. David Mark, young people in Nigeria are dying of HIV/AIDS almost every day, because they have no access to sex education and they can’t be open about what and who they are to the people who can proffer solutions.

They are dying, in Lagos, Abuja, Awka, Enugu and heavily in your state Benue, including all places in Nigeria. This disease is spreading; it is killing them and it is killing everyone.

Gay people are going underground and, because of this, some of us who work in the field of sex and health education will not be able to reach out to them. They might think we are spies sent by the government to arrest and jail them.

Open your heart, sir. This bill cannot change people’s sexuality; rather it would create an opportunity for double lives and lies and the effect of this is obnoxiously dangerous.

Stephen Chukwumah is executive director of the Improved Youth Health Initiative, which combats AIDS in Nigeria.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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