Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a dispatch from the "north Nigeria metropolis" of Bauchi, Nigeria, where, as it was reported last month, dozens of gay men were arrested in the wake of the so-called "Jail the Gays" bill. The Times reports that 10 men accused of being gay are being held in Bauchi's central prison.
That bill, recently signed by President Goodluck Jonathan (pictured above), bans same-sex marriage (its actual name is the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act), but that's not all. It's also now illegal to "directly or indirectly" make a "public show" of homosexuality. Taking part in or even supporting gay groups/organizations is also banned.
You can see how isolating this is to gay Nigerians, who are being told that they can't be with their loved ones in public, they can't organize, they can't have outside support. The Times article does a great job of showing how this anti-gay sentiment trickles down to the masses.
It's present in other government officials:
The acting foreign affairs minister, Viola Onwuliri, recently praised the law as "democracy in action," and suggested that Western critics were hypocrites to promote democracy and then complain about a law that the populace supports.
It's present in the media:
The Nigerian news media have been largely supportive of the law — "Are Gay People Similar to Animals?" was the headline on a recent op-ed article in a leading newspaper, The Guardian...
It's present in the police:
Officials here in Bauchi say they want to root out, imprison and punish gays.
It's present within prisons:
Inside the prison, the guards mock the gay men, comparing them to "pregnant women"...
In the prison, the men are separated from other prisoners, not for their protection, but "so that they should not indoctrinate the other inmates," said Mr. Mohammed's deputy, Dayyabu Ayuba, who is handling the case.
It's present in the general public. The story opens with the story of a man being whipped 20 lashes for having gay sex, leaving the crowd outside the courtroom disappointed that he wasn't stoned to death, as prescribed under local Islamic law.
"People are out to kill," said Abdullahi Yalwa, a sociologist who teaches at a Bauchi college.
"The stones increased," said Musa Kandi, a lawyer who briefly represented one of the men on his bail application. "They wanted to have those people, so they could kill them."
The piece reports that "most of the prisoners have been abandoned by their families." Their only support, according to the Times, are two activists, Tahir and Bala, who won't stay in the surrounding area overnight and claim to be relatives when visiting the prisoners.
It's horrifyingly bleak. The piece is an extremely important reminder that Russia isn't the only place where it's horrible to be gay, even if it's taking up a disproportionate amount of our attention because of the Olympics and, you know, white people.
[Photo via AP]