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Gay and Endangered in Nigeria; Facebook Royalty; Imagine a World

Aired January 16, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And tonight, gay and endangered in Nigeria, a growing crisis in Africa and around the world. This week President Goodluck Jonathan signed a new law, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. That means gay couples could face 14 years in prison. All gay clubs are outlawed as are even meetings between gay people.

A population, therefore, is being driven underground and arrests are already underway. That has drawn swift condemnation from the United States and other Western nations as well as U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay.

She says, "Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights."

But Nigeria is one of almost 80 countries around the world where being gay is either a jailable or capital offense. In Russia, homosexuality isn't illegal, but so-called gay propaganda is, which has sparked a truly global backlash that threatens President Putin's aims for the Sochi Olympics. And today he said that no athlete would face any discrimination in Russia.

Many Russians support their anti-gay law just as many as in Nigeria like the bill that President Jonathan has just signed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I'm very glad that he could stand his feet and sign against such a taboo because, I mean, it's un-African. We don't want such a thing in our country. I'm so happy that he signed against it.


AMANPOUR: And on that note, we turn first to Vladimir Duthiers, for the latest developments on this story. He's live tonight in Lagos.

Vlad, what exactly does this new law mean?


Well, Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted out once this law was signed that this is a big setback for the human rights of all Nigerians. And what especially she means is that this law, which now makes it illegal for anybody to associate, to aid, to abet, to commingle with anybody who is perceived to be homosexual, to be part of a gay group, to be part of a gay society, means that literally anybody can be accused of being a homosexual under this law and essentially thrown in jail. Many Nigerians are against same-sex unions. But in the discussions that I've had with rights activists here in Nigeria, they say that over the course of many, many years, the LGBT community in Nigeria has never lobbied the government to endorse same-sex unions. It's never been an issue; it's never been something that they've gone, that they've organized around to demand for the way it has happened in other countries.

And so why the passage of this law which was done in a sort of a -- in sort of a way that, you know, nobody really knew when it happened; it happened on January 7th with very little announcement, very little fanfare, what a lot of people are saying is that this will, in fact, take away the human rights of every single Nigerian in the street who might be accused under this new law, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So, Vlad, I mean, you point out this unbelievable truth, which is that nobody has ever lobbied for same-sex marriage or anything like that.

And this bill has been passed around and moving around various committees in Nigeria for years. Why now, then? What is the political reason for this?

DUTHIERS: It's unclear, Christiane. You know, there are many --there are many obviously people suspect that there might have been political pressure from Christian and Muslim clerics. But it's not clear why this law was put into place. After all, Nigerians, although they are overwhelmingly supportive of -- or they're not in support of gay unions, 98 percent of Nigerians are against that, according to a 2013 Pew Research study that was done, most of the LGBT community is very much underground. And this -- what makes it very difficult is, for example, a person who is helping to distribute condoms in this country, to the LGBT community, Nigeria has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS related incidences in the world, if somebody is thought to be distributing condoms to homosexuals, they can be imprisoned for 10 years under this new law.

If -- even the discussions that I had with an activist yesterday, that could be construed as having some kind of activity, commingling, aiding, abetting somebody who is a homosexual or somebody who worked with the homosexual community, I could be thrown in jail for 10 years under this new law.

So that is what Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, when he said, quote, that this law is intolerant and is one of the -- one of the laws that it will take away the freedom of expression, assembly, for all Nigerians, and it is, in fact, against their 1999 constitution, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Yes, Vlad, thank you for bringing us up to day and extraordinary that you, just for doing your job by doing an interview with somebody who's gay also could face the consequences.

Let's move on now to delve deeper into this. Joining me from London is Bisi Alimi, who was the first Nigerian to openly declare his homosexuality and he did that on television. He became a gay rights activist, but, of course, that earned him severe death threats. And seven years ago, he fled to asylum in Britain.

Bisi Alimi, welcome to the program.

Let me ask you first --


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first, what were you thinking when you announced this on national television?

And what happened in the immediate aftermath?

ALIMI: I've been asked this question many times. And I still do not know what was going on in my head when I went on national television to talk about my sexuality.

But I also think at that time, I think, one, I have a responsibility to my community and I could basically consider myself as a community leader. And I think I have a responsibility to stand up for the community, to give a face to the community, to demystify under all arguments that are all homosexuality, that no homosexuals in Nigeria.

And the second point was my career was on the line. I was going to be outed by the media. And I thought that if that was going to happen, then I would (INAUDIBLE) want to do it myself rather than have the media, you know, say what -- overstate the obvious. And that was why I went on the most famous Nigerian TV show to talk about my sexuality.

AMANPOUR: Right. So you said that you wanted to actually stimulate a discussion and apparently there was, for a while, a discussion of sex and sexuality around Nigeria.

What happened then to make you have to flee?

And what do you think is going to happen now? We already hear about arrests underway.

ALIMI: I would like to point out here that before 2004, before I went on national television in Nigeria, same-sex relationship, it was not something which we don't talk about, as much as we don't talk about sex in Nigeria, there were so many things we don't talk about. We just feel that, you know, these are things we ought not to.

And I think it's also about the influence of religion on our society. Immediately after 2004, the conversation got mainstreamed. We started talking about -- we developed a huge interest within the media on same-sex issues and same-sex conversations, but not as much as I would have loved to. It was more of victimization rather than adding an intelligent adult's conversation around these issues.

People were not ready to educate themselves. And these created a lot of problems for the LGBT community in Nigeria. And it affected me. It affected the show I went on. The show was called off. The presenter for me, Addah (ph), she was almost rendered jobless.

And I had to, you know, face three years' ordeal in Nigeria which was very difficult. I couldn't get a job. I left university. Nobody was going to employ me. My life was constantly in danger. I was always beaten, arrested by the police, discharged. I was living for the day until when I had the opportunity to move to the United Kingdom.

AMANPOUR: Bisi, you've heard the condemnation by Secretary of State John Kerry, by the U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, by the U.N. itself.

But it doesn't look like Nigeria really gives a toss about that condemnation, because they're already sending out, you know, statements, don't interfere with our internal affairs.

And of course, Nigeria has a huge amount of money through its oil.

Does it fear any kind of international condemnation or sanctions?

ALIMI: They do. I want you to know that they do.

Now the question is why after president's now made a statement 72 hours after he signed or after we got in his signed the bill, this bill was signed on the 7th of January. One, this is a bill that has generated a lot of conversation globally.

Why did he sign this bill in secrecy? Is he still not come out since the information was released to a blogger? Not even to the Nigerian press, the information was released to bloggers. And the president has not come out to make an official statement on why he's doing what he's doing.

But apart from that, we know, you know, the world knows how much Nigeria needs the global community as much as the global community needs Nigeria. People say now that they don't care. Well, I know that they do care. Nigerians do businesses around the world. And there are so many businesses from around the world that are in Nigeria. And I think with time, when the dust is settled, we will all understand better the implications of this -- of this law.

Just like you say --



ALIMI: -- the presenter.

AMANPOUR: -- Bisi, let me just quickly ask you, because obviously so many Nigerians actually do support this law, and you heard from our own Vlad that there is a major state of homophobia and silence in Nigeria.

You mentioned religion. What do you know about, I don't know, whether it's Muslim groups or Christian groups, what was the pressure, do you think, on the president to sign this right now?

ALIMI: There has been a lot of pressure on the president. And I remember in 2007, February 14, 2007, I had the opportunity to attend the public hearing at the national assembly and the moment I got up to speak, I was booed by the lawmakers and the religious groups that were present that day.

They wouldn't allow somebody like me to present my views, to present my opinion about my fundamental human rights, that is protected under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So that has always been the tactic of the religious group in Nigeria.

And I think they've done the same thing to President Goodluck Jonathan. He's been boxed to a corner because presently, the political climate in Nigeria is one, not to be envied. Jonathan is losing favor in every corner. There's been -- his government is not a majority anymore in the national assembly. There's been call for the constitution to be reviewed as regards marriage, rape in marriage, as regards child marriage.

There's so many issues that's going on. And I know -- and like so many other Nigerians know, that this is a distraction.

Now when we talk about Nigerians are in support of this law, how many Nigerians know differently what this law means? Or how many Nigerians have an understanding apart of religion what exactly we talk about when we talk about sexuality?

So when you have a conversation with Nigerians, and come back and tell you that my Bible says and my Quran says, and I live in a secular state why then should religion be the basis of, you know, putting a law in place in a secular state?

So there's a lot of things that is wrong with this.

More than I think the sense of Nigeria are against child marriage. Why don't we have a law banning child marriage in Nigeria?

AMANPOUR: All incredibly interesting questions, and the troubling development that we're obviously going to pursue, Bisi Alimi, thank you so much indeed for joining me today.

And in Rome, Nigeria was very much on the mind of Pope Francis earlier this week when he met with over 180 ambassadors who visited the Holy See.

The pope spoke about the terrible outbreak of killing in parts of Africa like the Central African Republic and what he called the spilling of innocent blood in Nigeria, referring to that country being embroiled in its fierce battle with Boko Haram militants.

Now after a break, the Internet and social media, a catalyst for change and hope around the globe, but has it totally lived up to its promise? Randi Zuckerberg should know. Yes, it is a familiar name. Her little brother, Mark, founded a little thing called Facebook. She joins us with her unique insight when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now the brouhaha at home and abroad over Edward Snowden's NSA leaks have led President Obama to seek some reforms to the surveillance state, demanded among many others by America's technology giants like Facebook, Google and Apple.

There are few people as qualified to talk about the issue as Randi Zuckerberg. As Facebook's director of marketing and Mark Zuckerberg's sister, she was there at the beginning, the closest thing to techno royalty. But now Randi's message has taken a surprising turn. The Internet generation, she says, needs to unplug a bit.

She's moved on from Facebook to start up her own company. She has a baby son and she's just written two books, "Dot Complicated" for adults and plain "Dot," for children. She joined me in the studio earlier today, where I asked her about the real promise the many pitfalls and the intrusive lack of privacy of life online.


AMANPOUR: Randi Zuckerberg, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: It's good to talk to you. Particularly let's talk about the hard news; President Obama making a speech about the new parameters and potential reforms to the surveillance programs.

And certainly Facebook, Google and a bunch of other companies have written to the president, talking about and complaining about the surveillance and basically saying, "People won't use technology that they don't trust; governments have put this trust at risk and governments need to help restore it."

ZUCKERBERG: You know, I have a very -- I have two conflicting viewpoints on this. So I'm going to answer you as a technologist and as a mother.

So as a technologist, I think it's one of the worst things you can do to stifle innovation is for people to feel like they're being -- like they have that kind of surveillance. And these companies all they have is the trust of their users. These companies are all free. As soon as people don't trust the platforms, they're not using it, they're off to the next one and everyone loses.

So on that perspective, I completely agree. As a mom who wants to protect children online, there could definitely be some benefits.

AMANPOUR: You see what many have talked about, this intrusive NSA surveillance. You see it in very personal terms of potentially catching out people who are dangerous for the kids and for the family.

ZUCKERBERG: I see that there could be a benefit there.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, because obviously so far, Facebook, Google and the others have been secure. They have been safe from major hacking.

But if the NSA can do this, and given all the data that you have and that you continue to save, are you not concerned? Or these companies, should they not be concerned that inevitably, they're going to get hacked, and all our information is going to get out there?

ZUCKERBERG: It's definitely always a risk. I mean, we just heard about Target, the huge breach finally with 40 million people who were affected. So I think we all have to -- it's both the responsibility of the companies, but also our responsibility -- I think we have to be conscious that any time we're putting any information online that there's always a risk. There's always a chance and we all have to have our own backup plan there, too.

AMANPOUR: The backup plan potentially could be getting rid and not saving all this data.

Is that even a starter for Facebook or is anybody even considering getting rid of all this saved information about my details, my son's details?

ZUCKERBERG: It's a really good point, especially in parts of the world, that as these companies expand to parts of the world where the government is paying closer attention to what people are saying, where people don't have the same rights of freedom of speech, it's definitely interesting when you think about the ramifications of storing data in some of those parts of the world.

AMANPOUR: But not here?

ZUCKERBERG: I -- you know, it's interesting; I've done a lot of studies recently. I did -- I conducted a whole study on -- with MSL Group on the wisdom of wired women, and what we found is in the U.S., people are actually the least concerned of anywhere in the world that we surveyed about their safety online, their trust, their data.

So it's kind of fascinating when you see that. Also we keep the lowest amount of surveillance over our children of any country.

AMANPOUR: Which, you know, is not necessarily so good. And you just talked about the trust being breached by these kind of surveillance.

But let me go to the personal aspect of you have now not only moved on from Facebook, created your own company over the last couple of years, but written books about people's over connection, people's over addiction to the Internet, to social media.

What are you trying to say to people right now?

And how can Randi Zuckerberg say that?

ZUCKERBERG: That's right. I know it seems ironic, but I'm trying to help people understand is that we have to use technology mindfully. But at the same time, we get so enthralled with these devices that you almost forget to look up and invest in the relationships around you.

AMANPOUR: You know, you say this in the context where Facebook and other big companies are also going after offline data. In other words, you're partnered with a lot of groups that collect a lot of information about individuals, what they do; they go to the supermarket, they buy, I don't know, a candy bar. And the next thing you see, they pop up on your Facebook page or whatever it is.

Isn't that a sort of a contradiction?

ZUCKERBERG: I think it depends if it makes the user experience better. I think a lot of us know -- we know that when we open up Google Maps, we know when we open up different things, that we are giving data to these companies. But on the other hand, these services, they make our lives so --


AMANPOUR: -- is past and probably you might say something ordinary and it becomes extraordinary because of your name.

And everybody, you said, loves to see a little bit of sibling rivalry between this famous family.

Is that a pain in the neck?

Is it real?

ZUCKERBERG: It's -- I think the last name for me has been much more of a glass half-full. There are, of course, a lot of challenges. But being a part of a family that's really synonymous with the American dream, it's amazing, you know, just the conversations that it's enabled me to have.

But of course there are challenges, being in Silicon Valley, it's living under a very big shadow and there are challenges there.

AMANPOUR: Randi Zuckerberg, thanks very much.



AMANPOUR: We also spoke about what it's like navigating Silicon Valley as a woman and a Zuckerberg. Head to to find out why one of Randi's colleagues told her that she had to be three times as good as the men with whom she worked.

And while reefing and reforming cyberspace remains a challenge for private industry and government, imagine another arena where four-legged creatures can teach some old dogs some new tricks about democracy. That is when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, social media, like Facebook, has indeed enabled the flow of ideas, including democratic ones in countries where real information is the first casualty of war and dictatorship.

And in another arena which has long been a bastion of privilege and pedigree, they are sniffing a new whiff of freedom, too. Imagine a world where democracy is literally going to the dogs. Here in New York, next month, the legendary Westminster Kennel Club will be hosting its 138th annual dog show, which is part beauty contest, part cutthroat competition, and determined America's top dog. It's the canine crown jewel, famously parodied in the classic comedy film, "Best in Show."


AMANPOUR (voice-over): All joking aside, some animal rights groups lobby for the adoption of mongrels and shelter animals over breeds they say are all but genetically engineered. And while Westminster will continue to award blue ribbons to the purebred poodles and Pomeranians, this year, for the first time, the mutts will also have their day. Two days, in fact, before the genteel black tie judging begins, the club will stage its first agility championship like this one, inviting 200 dogs from the penthouse to the local shelter, to run around an obstacle course where speed, energy and heart not to mention a love of treats trump bloodlines.


AMANPOUR: In this troubled world of ours, you can take inspiration wherever you can find it.

And if a dogged devotion to democracy is possible, there's hope for everyone.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.