Canadian authorities have cancelled a state visit by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in February in response to the African country’s new anti-gay law.
According to Sahara Reporters, the Nigerian Ambassador for Canada was told to inform the President that the state visit, scheduled for February 13 and 14 has now been cancelled.
The decision follows Jonathan’s recent choice to sign Nigeria’s controversial law into effect, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada is “deeply concerned” about.
The law, first drafted in 2009, will jail anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union for up to fourteen years, as well as banning people who register, or participate in gay clubs, societies or organizations, or publicly show they are in a same-sex relationship.
In a statement released on Monday, January 13, before the cancellation of the state visit, John Baird said, “We call on Nigeria to repeal this law and to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Nigerians regardless of their sexual orientation.
“Canada has clearly spoken out against human rights violations committed against people on the basis of their sexuality, and we will continue to do so.”
The law has received international criticism, such as UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague saying, “We are disappointed that President Jonathan has given his assent to a bill which will further criminalise same-sex relationships in Nigeria.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry labeled it “dangerous.”
Although Jonathan has not yet publicly stated his views on homosexuality, his spokesperson, Reuben Abati, told Associated Press on Monday January 13, “This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people…Nigerians are pleased with it.”
In an interview on Sunday, January 19, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak said “the hostile reaction of Europeans and the United States to the recent signing into law of the bill that outlaws marriages and sexual relations between people of the same sex has not taken into consideration the socio-cultural differences between people of different racial backgrounds, and more importantly the religious beliefs of our people.
“What the anti-gay law has tried to achieve is to protect and promote family values as we know it from the start…We [have]yet to see how this same sex practice will reduce inequality, reduce the grinding poverty facing our people. Same sex rights and privileges will not generate employment, enhance health care, improve education and technological growth, which is what we need now.”
Motivation behind the introduction of the law remains unclear, considering homosexual sex was already illegal and there was no movement for marriage equality within the country.
On January 16, a Muslim man was sentenced to twenty lashes after he was convicted of breaking the law against same-sex sexual activity.
In parts of northern Nigeria, where Islamic Sharia law is enforced, gays and lesbians can be legally stoned to death.