Facing a backlash, Nigerian presidential candidate Donald Duke has changed his mind and now says he believes that gay people should indeed remain criminals.
Duke recently made headlines when he appeared on the talk show On the Couch, and told the hosts that when it comes to homosexuality, “I don’t understand it but I will not criminalise them. I would ensure they have the protection of the law.”
He also stated that LGBTQ people’s sexuality should remain out of the public eye and that he wouldn’t have a problem appointing a gay person to his cabinet – as long as he or she kept their identity to themselves.
Now, Duke has walked back the comments in a post published on social media. “Recently, a statement I made during an interview concerning gay rights and homosexuality has been construed as my affirmation of homosexuality and same sex marriage,” he wrote.
“Nothing is further from the truth. Homosexuality is a crime in Nigeria and ought to remain so,” Duke insisted.
He explained that what he meant was that, “I would not go seeking homosexuals for prosecution as this is liable to abuses and as such would rather not delve into the sexuality of an individual.”
Duke, who is the former governor of the southern Nigerian state of Cross River, added: “For the avoidance of doubt, our law on homosexuality stands in fact and in my moral rectitude.”
Nigerians will go to the polls in February 2019 to elect their president and MPs to the National Assembly.
The country has some of the most repressive anti-LGBTQ legislation in the world. A 2014 federal law prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as membership or support of LGBTQ groups. Under colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.