The Stephen Harper Conservatives have spoken out against a proposal in Nigeria to further criminalize gays and lesbians, and — at least as significantly — those who would ally, advocate for or even just silently tolerate their existence.
Yup, you heard that right. If you’ve read my other writings about Canada under Harper, you might think it impossible. It’s not, and it happened. Give credit where it’s due. The Harper Conservatives and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird are taking the lead on this. Without a major political outcry prompting them.
And for that, I’ll thank them.
Nigeria has introduced the Same Gender Marriage Bill which calls for a 14-year jail sentence for anyone who enters into a same sex marriage contract or civil union. It also calls for a 10-year sentence for anyone who participates in, witnesses or fails to report such a wedding, and for anyone who advocates or attempts to organize in support of LGBT people. Many news sources are missing that the bill is a redundancy, and fail to note (possibly at the lead of some faux news sources) that homosexuality is already punishable by death in 12 Nigerian states and up to 14 years imprisonment everywhere else in the country.
Baird is calling for Nigeria to ensure basic equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. I’m not certain if gender identity or expression were brought up — in African nations, however, they tend to be conflated all as one with sexual orientation.
“Through the Commonwealth and other forums, Canada will continue to make this point in the most forceful of terms.”
The Nigerian press and lawmakers have called Baird’s and the Commonwealth’s advocacy on the issue as “attempts to violate Nigeria’s value system” and have remained defiant.
So far, there hasn’t been a response from Canadian Evangelicals, who might be more inclined to support the “rogue” religious leaders who inspired these kinds of bills from Nigeria and Uganda. Some MPs also participated in an “It Gets Better” video, getting lukewarm responses from the social left and social right alike. The Nigerian stance has received a better response. It remains to be seen whether this climate change could also turn into support for including transsexual and transgender Canadians in human rights legislation (the upcoming Bill C-279 that you’re contacting your MP about, right?). But in the meantime, the Conservatives have taken up an important fight, I respect them for that, and hope they will continue.