Nigerian assembly bans same sex marriage, imposes long jail sentences

Amsterdam News West Africa Bureau | Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013 10:10 am

The Nigerian House of Assembly voted Thursday to ban same sex marriage and impose jail terms of 10 -14 years for those convicted.

The measure passed unanimously and with no debate or discussion, merely a voice vote.

The vote occurred the same day that a cache of weapons that allegedly belonged to Hezbollah and was stored in preparation for attacks on Western targets – was discovered by the Nigerian army.

Representatives of Nigeria’s 160 million residents also voted to ban organizations that support its gay and lesbian citizens and criminalized public displays of affection by same gender couples.

The Associated Press reported that a copy of the house bill had no changes made to it from the November 2011 bill the Nigerian senate passed that imposed 14-year sentences for gay couples who tie the knot or anyone who witnesses such nuptials.

The bill now awaits the signature of President Goodluck Jonathan to become law or his veto to scuttle it.

His spokesman were mum on the issue, as were most Western embassy spokespeople in the aftermath of the surprise vote.

Human rights activists in Nigerian only learned of the vote hours after it happened with one telling the A.P. that a court challenge is likely if it get’s the president’s signature.

“If that’s the scope, there will be serious issues,” Chidi Odinkalu, the chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission said.

Western human rights groups abroad were quick to cry foul. This bill makes discrimination against LGBTI people the law of the land,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. “We call on President Jonathon to respect international human rights by refusing to sign this bill into law.”

“Nigeria’s elected officials are obliged, and have in fact sworn, to protect the basic rights of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation,” added Santiago Canton, director of RFK Partners for Human Rights at the RFK Center.

“This bill represents a breach of Nigeria’s domestic and international legal obligations.”

The bill if signed into law could also affect funding for groups that combat the huge HIV/AIDS problem in Nigeria. The U.S. government funds a number of treatment programs there.

Back in 2011 President Barack Obama, directed that the support from the United States Agency for International Development U.S.A.I.D., did not support governments that discriminate against its sexual minorities and Nigeria has one of the world’s largest populations of people living with HIV.

The president’s directive asked officials to “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of gays, lesbians and the transgendered. That included having diplomats “combat the criminalization” of being gay.

Nigeria’s substantial oil revenues make its lawmakers immune to threats of getting aid cut off from Western nations and the issue is likely to follow President Obama on his Africa trip at the end of June.

Two of the countries Obama will visit – Senegal and Tanzania have laws on the books that criminalize homosexuality but the third, South Africa is the one country on the African that has full marriage equality

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After Fair Trade Coffee, Fair Trade Shea


A few of the estimated 16 million African women who pick shea nuts for a living are going to be making their case for fair trade to the giant corporations who buy their nuts in New York City on Monday.

These women — many of them making their first trip outside Africa — are the main attraction at the first-ever Shea Butter Trade Industry conference in North America.

They will rub shoulders in a midtown Manhattan hotel with cosmetic industry titans — the likes of L’Oréal, Kao (maker of Jergens brand products) and the Body Shop — as well as large-scale chocolatiers and confectioners.

In rural villages across West Africa, women use traditional methods to extract the fat from shea nuts, producing shea butter, a solid, whitish-yellow vegetable fat.

They use it for cooking and for skin care. This same fat is the main ingredient in the Body Shop’s best-selling Chocomania Body Butter and many other skin-care products.

For confectioners, specialty fats made from shea are used to make “cocoa butter equivalents” that give chocolate a higher melting point and a smoother texture.

You can see how one community in northern Ghana extracts shea butter here.

The women coming to New York want their corporate buyers to pay a fair price. They also want them to buy and use more shea in food products. Shea is currently used to make Kit Kat bars, Almond Joys, Milky Ways and other confections.

Antoine Turpin of IOI Loders Croklaan — a worldwide supplier of edible oils — says “shea is an important source of revenue to millions of women and their families across Africa. Empowering these women economically is crucial to the industry’s sustainability.”

That sustainability is in his interest too. His firm purchases an estimated 25 percent of all the shea nuts picked by women in West Africa for use in confectioneries.

Mr. Turpin will be explaining the supply chain, “from tree to chocolate,” on Monday and making a case for how shea can be used.

The conference organizers, the Global Shea Alliance, was first brought together by the West Africa Trade Hub, an offshoot of the United States Agency for International Development, in 2011.

Now it is an independent body, and this gathering is their coming out.

In the same way that the members up and down the supply chain involved in other global commodities, most famously coffee, have embraced fair trade, many stakeholders in the shea business hope to do the same.

“The Body Shop has used shea for over 19 years and we are firmly committed to using our learning to build a sustainable shea sector,” said Mark Davis, the company’s director of community fair trade. “Being a member of the Global Shea Alliance is critical to achieving that goal.”

One of the alliance’s stated goals is that the women who pick the shea nuts get good prices but also deliver better quality product. They are coming to New York “to develop a strategy to empower the millions of women who collect shea nuts,” said Salima Makama, the association’s president.

Development consultants will join them.

A 2010 U.S.A.I.D. survey conducted in Burkina Faso found that for every $1,000 worth of shea nuts sold, an additional $1,580 in economic activity was generated for the village.
It’s estimated that shea exports from West Africa total $90 million to $200 million a year. The trees grow in the savannah region that lies south of the Sahel in an area totaling 3 million square kilometers, or 1.15 million square miles, and extends from Senegal to South Sudan.

This area is dry and generally flat. Shea trees appear to grow at random in the wild but are actually managed on parklands.

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