John Kirby told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing that Kerry raised Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act with President Muhammadu Buhari and other members of his delegation on Tuesday during a luncheon at the State Department.
“We made clear then as we have made clear publicly our concerns about this legislation, which criminalizes in particular homosexuality,” said Kirby. “We’ve been very clear that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights. And again we’ll continue to raise this issue moving forward.”
Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in January 2014 signed the draconian law that, among other things, punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison and bans membership in an LGBT advocacy group.
Homosexuality remains punishable by death in areas of Nigeria that are under Shari’a law. Religious forces known as the Hisbah in January arrested a dozen people who were reportedly attending a same-sex wedding outside the city of Kano.
Buhari on Wednesday did not discuss his country’s LGBT rights record during a speech he gave at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. The Blade submitted a written question about the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act before the event, but Buhari was not asked it during a discussion that Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson moderated.
“The future of Nigeria, indeed the future of Africa, lies in democratic governance,” said Buhari. “Democracy can help us build fair, just and inclusive societies.”
Buhari in March defeated Jonathan in the country’s presidential election amid concerns over terrorism related to Boko Haram, corruption and a stagnant economy.
Buhari on Monday met with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House.
The U.S. gave Nigeria $703 million in aid in 2014, compared to $669.8 million in 2013 and $647 million in 2012. The country during the 2015 fiscal year requested $720.9 million in foreign aid from Washington.