President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, recently threatened to sanction countries that have refused to make laws that will accommodate and recognise the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) persons. Sanctions against such nations may include tough economic measures. Biden issued a presidential memorandum aimed at expanding the protection of the rights of LGBTQI people worldwide. Nigeria is categorized as a homophobic country due to its anti-gay policy.
Biden’s memo reads in part, “When foreign governments move to restrict the rights of LGBTQI persons or fail to enforce legal protections in place, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance, agencies engaged abroad shall consider appropriate responses including using the full range of diplomatic and assistance tools and, as appropriate, financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and other actions. All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love.”
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The memo directs US agencies working in foreign countries to work harder to combat the criminalisation by foreign governments of LGBTQI status or conduct, and directs the State Department to include anti-LGBTQI violence, discrimination and laws in its annual human rights report. It calls for increased efforts to ensure that LGBTQI asylum seekers have equal access to protection, expanded training for US federal personnel, and potential increased use of priority referrals to expedite resettlement of vulnerable people. The memo also instructs agencies to consider appropriate responses, including the full range of diplomatic tools, and potentially financial sanctions and visa restrictions, when foreign governments restrict the rights of LGBTQ people.
Biden’s recent memo did not come as a surprise because he officiated over the a same-gender wedding of two long-time White House staffers, Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie, at the Naval Observatory in 2016 while he was vice president under President Obama. Vice President Joe Biden publicly endorsed same sex marriage in 2012.
It would be recalled that in spite of pressures from former US President, Barrack Obama, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in January 2014. The anti-gay law in Nigeria provides between 10 and 14 years in prison for anyone caught flouting the law either by cohabitation between same-gender sexual partners, public show of same-sex relationship, registration, operation or participation in gay clubs, societies and organisation, amongst others. There are insinuations in the media that the recent rise in homosexuals in Nigeria may have been influenced by President Joe Biden’s move to promote the rights of gays.
Reacting to the threat issued by Joe Biden against countries that have criminalized homosexuality, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and other lawyers in the country have flayed the threat; maintaining that it would be wrong for America to attempt to use power to force sovereign African countries to embrace abhorrent sexual orientations. A constitutional lawyer and SAN, Dayo Akinlaja said, “To us as Africans, it is morally despicable and reprehensible for such to be tolerated even though in our Constitution, there is a provision that says there should be no discrimination against anyone on the basis of sex.” Akinlaja believes that by reason of our cultural belief, no one should be allowed to force us into something that we consider to be socially and morally unacceptable in our own system.
In Africa, it is morally an aberration to tolerate such deviant behaviours. The question of sanctions should, therefore, not deter us from abhouring what we consider to be immoral or sinful. “Nigeria, as a sovereign nation, does not owe America any obligation to repeal a law that was made to reflect our culture and values. We cannot repeal our law to reflect the American way of life. We have our cultures and values … It will be a bad start for the new American President to attempt to promote what we as Africans classified as immorality”, Akinlaja reiterated.
It’s time for people to appreciate the reality that America and Nigeria are two distinct societies with different cultures and value systems. The attempt by Joe Biden’s administration to impose sanctions on countries that criminalized homosexuality shall amount to a gross infringement upon the sovereignty, political independence, cultural liberty, religious freedom, sensibilities, beliefs, and ideals of others.
Nigeria is a country where religion matters to most citizens as Muslims or Christians. Gay marriage and homosexuality are un-African and against God’s decree. Homosexuality in any form is forbidden by the text of the Glorious Qur’an. Allah states in Qur’an 7:80-81 “We also (sent) Lut. He said to his people; ‘Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women, ye are indeed a people of transgressing beyond bounds”. The people to whom Prophet Lut (alayhi s-Salam, AS) were destroyed in the past for engaging in homosexuality. Prophet Lut (AS) was a nephew of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). He was sent as a warner to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities were completely destroyed for their unspeakable sins including homosexuality. The location of these cities (Sodom and Gomorrah), according to the famous Qur’anic exegete, Yusuf Ali, cannot exactly be traced today. However, they have been supposedly described to be around the plain east of the Dead sea.
Two angels who appeared in the shape of handsome young men visited Prophet Lut in the evening and became his guests at night. The inhabitants of Sodom in their lust for unnatural crime invaded Lut (AS)’s house but were repulsed. In the morning, the angels warned Lut (AS) to escape with his family. As a punishment for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Allah (SWT) narrates in Qur’an 7:83-84 how He sent down shower (of brimstone) and perished the two cities. Lut (AS) family was saved except his wife who lagged behind.
We, in this part of the world, already have enough burden of challenges accruing abominable sins that are earning us God’s anger. We ask Nigeria leaders to remain resolute in rejecting the attempt by America to bedevil us additional act of disobedience (homosexuality) that would earn us further wrath from Allah. Even with a law criminalizing lewdness, we are living in miserable circumstances. Recognising that the entire world rejoiced at Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump as America’s 46th President, we urge Biden not to dampen Africans’ goodwill and excitement that greeted his emergence to lead the most powerful nation in the world. May Allah guide leaders to promote and preserve the purity of human creation, amin