Saturday, December 16, 2006

How can anyone take Nigeria seriously?

I found the below article in the New York Times last Tuesday. The circumstances of being on a plane and having the hotel provide me with a copy of the paper that morning were unique. Ordinarily I don't read newspapers. I definitely don't skim through every page of a newspaper [this 'world brief' blurb was buried on page 32 or something]. And I'm not a hawk for human rights stories or the domestic policies of African nations. But this story caught my attention and stuck with me.

World Briefing | Africa
Nigeria: Bill Would Make Meeting With Gays a Crime
Published: December 12, 2006
Lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban any form of association with a homosexual, even sharing a meal at a restaurant. The legislation would also prohibit belonging to gay clubs or reading books, watching films or visiting Internet sites that “promote” homosexuality, and proposes penalties of up to five years in prison. It is widely expected to pass. Engaging in homosexual acts is already illegal, with those convicted facing prison terms in the mainly Christian south and execution in the mainly Muslim north. Gays are so closeted and fearful there has been no public opposition to the legislation.
*end article*

Now I watched the West Wing and intellectually admired the storylines about gender inequality in some Muslim nations, but never thought much beyond the abstract notion of it. And you hear about various governments being less open and free than ours. But all governments have warts, all systems are impefect [e.g., 2000 election anyone?]. So, to some extent, it can be difficult to get charged up about degrees of freedom in a country's political process. I tend to blow these things off as inevitable.
But reading something like this Nigerian law that "is widely expected to pass" --- that is just so completely backwardit amazes me. How can anyone take such a country seriously? Where is the global disdain for this kind of thing, as there was for South Africa's apartheid? I'm sure it's not the worst governmental offence in the world, and I imagine that there's little I can do to effect any evolution in such assinine thinking, but it was enough to make me wonder what can be done. Are there groups that pay attention to companies that profit from dealing with countries like this? How/where can I get a list of them? How can people let those companies know that they should be embarrassed to deal with a country that has pre-caveman notions of what's 'right' and 'wrong' in society? In a world where Darfur has to advertise to get help and issues covered in big budget movies with all-star casts won't make people think twice about buying more diamonds, I hold little hope for stirring outrage for Nigeria's current laws against 'promoting' homosexuality or 'associating' with homosexuals. Just had to post my little rant and tilt at this windmill for a moment.
Wikipedia entry on gay rights in Nigeria.
BBC article on this issue.
Amnesty International's coverage on Nigeria