Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama has made a remarkable about-turn on his country’s anti-gay law, saying that he does not support jailing gay people.

Earlier this year, Kaigama, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, congratulated President Goodluck Jonathan for signing the draconian bill into law.

The law outlaws any kind of same-sex relationships with imprisonment as well as anyone who supports or operates gay clubs, societies and organisations.

At the time, Kaigama, wrote to Jonathan that his approval of the law “is indeed a courageous one” and “a right step in the right direction.”

It now appears that a visit to the Vatican has cleared Kaigama’s head and helped him realise that the Catholic Church is actually opposed to locking up gay people.

According to The Tablet, Kaigama changed his tune in front of the rest of the world at a press briefing in Rome last week on the Synod on the Family (which yesterday said that gays have “gifts” to offer Christianity).

He insisted that the media’s reporting of his views was a “gross misinterpretation” and that he only supported the parts of the Nigerian law that banned same-sex marriage.

“We are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations,” he said.

Kaigama further claimed: “We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished.”

He added: “The Government may want to punish them – we don’t. In fact we will tell the Government to stop punishing those with different orientations.”

Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian LGBT activist, has now responded to the archbishop’s hypocrisy, noting that, “there was and continues to be wide-spread violent attacks against those suspected of being homosexuals in Nigeria. Indeed, the persecution of gay people in Nigeria is strongly influenced by religious homophobia.”

In an open letter published by PM News, Mac-Iyalla wrote: “The Nigerian Christian Association has stood firm in supporting the new laws, and there is no record anywhere to prove that your church or any other church has seriously challenged the persecution of gay people in Nigeria.”

He nevertheless welcomed Kaigama’s new position “with joy” and urged him to “please continue to speak out, as strongly as you can against the barbaric treatment of gay people in Nigeria.”

The so-called Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act not only banned gay marriage (which was never legal in the first place) but also imprisons anyone in any kind of consensual adult same-sex relationship for 14 years. Any public display of same-sex affection will also lead to a prison term of 10 years.

Gay sex was already illegal in Nigeria with 14 years imprisonment. Twelve northern states in Nigeria operate under Islamic Sharia law that allows homosexuality to be punished with death by stoning.

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