Is Nigeria Championing a Homophobic Agenda at the UN?

The Nigerian government has taken itscampaign of hatred and discrimination against homosexuals to the United Nations. It has asked the UN secretariat to stop the issuance of a postage stamp that ‘celebrates homosexuality and trangenderism’. Nigerian Ambassador Usman Sarki deployed the same falsehood and misrepresentation which the government used to justify the criminalization of gay marriage in Nigeria to push for the cancellation of the stamp.

He said:
“We are distressed and alarmed that the United Nations has adopted an activist stance on a matter that does not enjoy consensus – or, for that matter, majority support among all its member States. What is clear to many is that the UN has now decided without any reservation or hesitation to side with a minority of Member States and practitioners of this lifestyle, in complete disregard of the wishes and concerns of the majority of its member States and the populations that they represent”.

Ambasador Sarki says ‘We are ‘distressed and alarmed’ right? So, who are the 'we'? It is important to state that Ambassador Usman Sarki represents the Nigerian state not its population because there are many Nigerians who are not distressed or alarmed by the issuance of a postage stamp to recognize the human rights of homosexuals.

Millions of Nigerians have other issues to worry about like tackling poverty, unemployment, and insecurity - which the government that Usman Sarki is representing at the UN is practically doing nothing to tackle and resolve. I mean Sarki is not representing the position of millions of Nigerians that support without reservation and hesitation the efforts of the UN to protect the rights of religious, ethnic or sexual minorities. In fact millions of Nigerians want the UN not to cave to pressure and blackmail from homophobic member states. As the last bastion of hope, the UN should side with the minorities in fighting oppression and persecution by member states.

Sarki reminds the UN of the limits of its mandate while forgetting the limits of the mandate of member states. He said:

“It is in that regard that we wish to remind the UN to limit itself strictly to activities mandated by Member States and especially to promote issues that are beneficial to mankind rather than lend itself as tool to promote aberrant behavior under the guise of promoting human rights.”

It is also important for the UN to remind the likes of Ambassador Usman Sarki of the responsibility of member states to protecting the rights of sexual minorities and that the idea of crying foul because postage stamps are being issued in recognition of the rights for homosexuals and transsexuals is incompatible with the human rights obligations of member states. Also the UN should make it clear that states which oppose such initiatives lend themselves as tools to spread homophobia, not human rights of their citizens.

Sarki never disguised the homophobic agenda of Nigeria at the UN in his concluding statements. He noted:

“The UN should not take unilateral decisions on such sensitive matters that offend the sensibilities of the majority of its Member States, and contradict their religious beliefs, cultures, traditions and laws. If it must act in this fashion, the UN should promote issues that enjoy consensus and, at the same time, advance the dignity of people and their genuine human rights. In the light of this concern, we call upon the UN not to proceed with this event and to put an end to all processes that are currently in place in all its agencies, funds and programs that promote and legitimize this tendency on which there is no consensus among member states”

Ambassador Sarki is peddling falsehood by saying that recognizing the rights of homosexuals offends the sensibilities of most Nigerians and that such initiative contradicts their religious, cultural and traditional beliefs? How did he know the sensibilities of the majority?

No doubt, there are religious fundamentalists in Nigeria who claim that respecting the rights of gay people is incompatible with their Christian or Islamic beliefs. These extremists sanction death for homosexuals. In Northern Nigeria, some of these elements are members and supporters of Boko Haram and are fighting to enthrone an Islamic state and implement a stricter version of the sharia law. Nigeria cannot, on one hand, be waging a fierce battle against this extremist group at home, and at the same time be furthering the agenda of Boko Haram at the UN.

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Articles by Leo Igwe