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Uganda and Nigeria may pass anti-gay laws by Christmas

Two African countries are saying they will finally pass legislation that will make it impossible for LGBT individuals to live openly without fear of jail time.
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LGBT rights in African continue to be attacked by the governments of a number of countries. The latest assault comes from Nigeria and Uganda, both of which are looking to pass laws that will punish homosexuality with jail time. (PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian government will likely pass a bill that criminalizes homosexuality and those who support LGBT individuals or causes. Kissing could be punishable with jail time, and even being a witness at a same-sex ceremony or a public display of affection could land a person in prison. 

Nigeria's Senate approved the bill last year and the House of Representatives unanimously passed it as well. It's now going for a clause-by-clause review in the chamber, although the date is to be announced, reports AFP. 

AllOut, the world's largest LGBT advocacy organization, said same-sex couples who marry will face 14 years in prison. 

“The ‘Jail the Gays’ bill is an attack on not only gays and lesbians, but on straight Nigerians,” said Andre Banks, the executive director and co-founder of All Out, in a release Friday. “Basic freedoms like the freedom to assemble, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and the freedom to love are under attack by the Nigerian government. No one is safe from this dangerous bill - it is a distraction from real problems and must be stopped.”

More from GlobalPost: Uganda set to pass anti-gay bill

AllOut has started a petition against this bill, an updated version of an anti-gay marriage bill that passed Nigeria's Senate last year. Homosexuality is already illegal in the country, not unlike many other conservative African nations. 

AFP raised the question of whether NGOs operating in the country supplying HIV/AIDS treatments and testing would be impacted. It remains to be seen how the law might affect international organizations. 

In Uganda, the international fervor over a law that would enact the death penalty for homosexuals hasn't died down, and while that bill did not pass due to international outrage, an updated anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of the year, said the speaker of the country’s parliament Monday. 

Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told the Associated Press that the country is clamoring for the bill's passage, and some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as "a Christmas gift."

‘‘Who are we not to do what they have told us? These people should not be begging us,’’ she said.

More from GlobalPost: How the US Christian right influences policy in Africa

Human Rights Campaign points out that the Ugandan bill has been supported by fundamentalist American Christians, specifically Carl Ellis Jenkins, Lou Engle, and Scott Lively, who have opened dozens of churches in Uganda and other countries to rouse anti-gay sentiment. 

Along with their Ugandan counterparts, these American pastors insist that Western gays are recruiting the youth to "gay lifestyles" and invest significant amounts of money to counteract "homosexual influence."

‘‘Sentencing people to life in prison for love is not a ‘Christmas gift,’ it’s a sickening violation of human rights,’’ said Avaaz.org campaign director Emma Ruby-Sachs in a statement after that organization got 1.6 million signatures against the original Ugandan bill last year.

Ruby-Sachs said to the Advocate, ‘‘Hate speech by MPs has reached fever pitch in Uganda with politicians desperate to sacrifice its citizens. Governments and world citizens are unanimous in condemning this gay hate bill, we urge Uganda’s leaders to heed that call.”

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of LGBT rights in Africa, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle over Gay Rights."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/uganda-nigeria-anti-gay-laws-christmas