Yesterday, the World Congress of Families announced the recipients of its annual Lifetime Achievement Awards and “Natural Family Man and Woman of the Year Awards.”
Naturally, WCF – which recently suspended planning on a conference at the Kremlin due to the crisis in Ukraine – has chosen to present the awards to an array of activists who have been working to suppress reproductive rights and to push harmful anti-gay policies around the world.
The recipients include an Australian cabinet minister, the leader of a British social conservative group who has campaigned against gay rights in Jamaica and Russia, and a Venezuelan activist close to the Vatican who has warned that expanding gay rights in Latin America will lead to “people dying of AIDS like flies.”
Also receiving an award is WCF’s own African regional director, Theresa Okafor of Nigeria, who also heads the conservative groups Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH) and Life League Nigeria.
Okafor’s group backed Nigeria’s recent ban on all same-sex relationships, which included a ban on gay people meeting in groups of two or more. The ban quickly led to arrests of reportedly dozens of people alleged to be gay. In January, FACH joined a coalition of NGOS that commended Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan for signing the law. In April, FACH shared on its Facebook page videos of a press conference it organized in support of the bill in which speakers called homosexuality “abhorrent” and compared it to alcoholism.
In a speech to the World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in “a conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “Unfortuntately, in Nigeria where I come from, we have these fundamentalists, the Boko Haram – I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news – bombing churches. They seem to be helping some people in Western countries who are out to silence Christians. The Boko Haram are targeting Christians in Nigeria, so you wonder if there’s a conspiracy between the two worlds,” she said.
In the speech, Okafor defended moves toward harsh anti-gay laws in Nigeria and Uganda and speculated that efforts to defend LGBT rights in Africa are “another ploy to depopulate Africa.”
In 2011, Equality Matters ran down Okafor and FACH’s anti-gay activism:
FACH is an umbrella organization that includes a variety of right-wing organizations such as the Association of Concerned Mothers, Nigerian Association for Family Development, Doctors Health Initiative, Life League Nigeria, the Christian Association of Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Nigeria.
Among her achievements, Okafor counts keeping sex education out of Nigerian schools while eschewing the “conspiracy to strip Africa of its cherished values by international organizations like Planned Parenthood and the United Nations.”
Okafor also managed to convince the conservative World Congress of Families to hold its first “African conference” in Abuja, Nigeria in 2009, a gathering that this unambiguously homophobic article from a Nigerian outlet hailed as “aimed at giving the Nigerian perspective to a troubled world lurching from one moral crisis to another.”
Okafor also recently refuted the notion that LGBT people experience prejudice in Nigeria.
“I have heard accusations that they are being discriminated against,” Okafor said, “but this is completely false because if you think deeply about it, it is not the person that is being despised, it is the conduct.”
Okafor has also worked closely with the American group Family Watch International.