Sharon Slater

US Conservative Groups Supported Nigerian Anti-Gay Law That Led to Wave of Arrests

The Associated Press is reporting that “dozens of gay men” have been arrested in northern Nigeria as a result of a new law strengthening the country’s prohibition on homosexuality, in what public health groups fear will be a setback to efforts to fight AIDS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Police, working off a list of 168 suspects purportedly obtained through torture, are arresting dozens of gay men in Nigeria's northern Bauchi state, human rights activists said Tuesday.

A new law in Nigeria, dubbed the "Jail the Gays" bill, is encouraging the persecution of gays and will endanger programs fighting HIV-AIDS in the gay community, said Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights.

On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan's office confirmed that the Nigerian leader signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that criminalizes gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them.

CBS notes that “sodomy has been illegal in Nigeria for many years...in some parts of Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north where strict Sharia law is upheld, gays and lesbians risk being stoned to death if they are caught.”

This seems like a good time, then, to look back at the American religious right’s support for Nigeria’s harsh penalties for its LGBT residents and opposition to Obama administration efforts to protect LGBT rights abroad.

In 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Obama administration would work to protect LGBT rights abroad – including in places like Nigeria that criminalize homosexuality -- the religious right exploded in anger. Pat Robertson called the policy “appalling” and warned of God’s wrath in response. Radio host Janet Mefferd cited Nigeria’s anti-gay laws in a rant against the Obama administration’s policy, saying “I don’t see that this is something that the United States has to jump in on because it’s such a huge global tragedy. It’s crazy.” The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute also cited Nigeria’s move to tighten criminal sanctions on homosexuality in its opposition to the Obama administration policy.

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, the anti-gay group MassResistance, and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater have also supported Nigeria’s anti-gay laws at various stages.

We wonder if any of these groups will comment about this wave of arrests.

NOM March Sponsor Defends Criminalization of Homosexuality

The National Organization for Marriage’s upcoming Marriage March in Washington DC is sponsored by a whole litany of national and state-based Religious Right organizations and Catholic Church affiliates, and Jeremy Hooper has been doing an excellent job running down the list.

One notable sponsor of NOM’s march is Family Watch International (FWI), a group that defends the criminalization of homosexuality.

Other NOM march sponsors like the World Congress of Families and the Family Research Council have also defended such anti-gay laws, but as Warren Throckmorton reports FWI has been particularly active in pushing criminalization policies abroad.

Sharon Slater, American anti-gay activist and president of Family Watch International, recently encouraged delegates attending a law conference in Lagos, Nigeria to resist the United Nations’ calls to decriminalize homosexuality. Keynoting the Nigerian Bar Association Conference, Slater told delegates that they would lose their religious and parental rights if they supported “fictitious sexual rights.” One such “fictitious right” is the right to engage in same-sex sexual relationships without going to jail.



In Nigeria, homosexual behavior is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In the Islamic North, where Sharia law is enforced, gays can be sentenced to death by stoning.

According to Family Watch International, Nigeria is a role model.



Given the application of U.S. ex-gay rhetoric to questions of criminalization in Africa, it appears that FWI and their ally the WCF are fighting ideological battles in Africa and at the UN that they have lost in the United States. As Slater noted, she opposed the repeal of sodomy laws over a decade ago and now these organizations are opposing UN efforts to encourage repeal of such laws around the world.

Despite recoiling from obvious violence of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality bill, FWI continues to carry the banner for African and Arab nations that cause GLBT people to live in fear—and sometimes in jail. Opposing the repeal of laws criminalizing homosexual behavior in the U.S. is a far different matter than opposing such repeal in Nigeria or Ghana. Despite Slater saying the matter was “complicated,” the activities of FWI reveal a very uncomplicated, black-and-white strategy: laws opposing homosexuality in any form should be retained, while those which might provide basic freedoms to gays are opposed as bad for everybody else. The only caveat is that they prefer that gays not be beaten or killed.

Kerry Eleveld in the Political Research Associates report “Colonizing African Values” also looks into FWI’s promotion of ex-gay pseudo-science and FWI head Sharon Slater’s demand that homosexuality be treated like rape, assault, sexual abuse and drug dealing.

“It is one thing to allow others the right to engage in self-destructive behavior,” Slater warned in a 2009 article. “But allowing and even granting those same individuals the right to introduce this behavior as normal and healthy to society at large, especially to children, is a very different proposition. This is why we have laws that prohibit sexual acts such as incest, sexual abuse, and rape as well as drug dealing, assaults, and other crimes.”



This stance attracted the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which gave Slater a platform during its annual conference last year. As “scientific” organizations that used to employ discredited research in support of curing homosexuality continue to be marginalized, they seem to be reaching out to Christian Right figures such as Slater, and in return FWI’s website utilizes NARTH resources on ex-gay therapy.

Though Slater appears to have kept news of the most recent Global Family Policy Forum to a minimum, last year in a newsletter she recounted “one of the most moving presentations” as given by a person “successfully reorienting” from homosexuality to heterosexuality. According to Slater: “For many of these diplomats, this was their first exposure to the scientific and clinical evidence that proves homo- sexuality is not genetically determined and fixed like skin color or race and that in many cases, individuals who experience same-sex attraction can be helped by therapy.” (emphasis hers)

In order to curry favor with foreign diplomats and people from developing countries, Slater continually drives home themes of the West imposing its bankrupt and deleterious values on the rest of the world. FWI’s latest documentary, “Cultural Imperialism,” is described as a “hard-hitting exposé of how the U.S. and other Western governments and UN agencies are blackmailing developing nations to accept controversial sexual rights in the guise of fighting AIDS.”
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