The issue is especially pressing in Africa, where Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, recently adopted a harsh law that imposes a 14-year prison term for anyone entering into a same-sex relationship, as well as a 10-year sentence for anyone found to support gay clubs or meetings. Public displays of affection by gays and lesbians is considered a crime.
Legislation imposing similarly repressive sanctions on gays has been proposed in Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania.
In a January letter on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his “courageous and wise decision” in signing the legislation. Kaigama said it would protect Nigeria “against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices.”
The new law prompted a wave of violence against gays when it passed.
A few days later, however, a strongly worded editorial in the The Southern Cross, a newspaper run jointly by the bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, took aim at the new law, calling on the Catholic Church in Africa “to stand with the powerless” and “sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals.”