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Topics In the News
Persecution of Gays Underway in Nigeria
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/14/14
Last updated on: 01/14/14
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On the heels of the adoption of a draconian anti-gay law, Nigeria has begun what may be a systematic persecution of gay people. On January 13, 2014, it was announced that Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan had signed into law a bill that prohibits not only same-sex marriage, but also public displays of same-sex relationships, as well as any gathering of gay people and the formation of organizations devoted to furthering gay rights. On January 14, dozens of gay people were arrested in northern Nigeria.

As Al Jazeera reported, the law, which has been condemned by international human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department, provides a sentence of 14 years in prison for anyone entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union, and a sentence of ten years in prison for anyone who registers, operates, or participates in gay clubs, societies, and organizations, or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship.

Amnesty International had urged Jonathan to reject the bill after it had passed the Nigerian parliament in December, calling it "discriminatory" and warning of "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria's glbtq community. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa compared the law to apartheid.

In an op-ed at Towleroad.com David Mixner said the law is chilling because it criminalizes even meetings between homosexuals. He also pointed out that, given the shockingly bad conditions of Nigerian prisons, "The odds of an LGBT African being sent to a Nigerian prison for ten to fourteen years and emerging alive are almost nil. Any such sentence is a death sentence."

On January 14, 2014, the day after the announcement that Jonathan had signed the bill into law, the persecution began.

According to the Associated Press dozens of gay men have already been arrested in Bauchi state in northern Nigeria.

Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said that police in Bauchi state have a list of 168 purportedly gay men, of whom 38 have been arrested.

The new law was quickly condemned by Secretary of State John Kerry, who issued the following statement upon news that Jonathan had signed the bill into law: "The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria's enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians. Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution. People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love. We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens' fundamental freedoms and universal human rights."

The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office also criticised Nigeria for enacting the law. A spokesperson told PinkNews, "The Nigerian Government is aware of our concerns about the bill which was passed by the National Assembly in December as it infringes upon fundamental rights of expression and association which are guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and by international agreements to which Nigeria is a party."

On January 13, Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade questioned U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf about the Nigerian law. She said that the United States "will keep raising" concerns about the law, but seemed uninformed about any concrete actions that the U.S. might take.

Johnson may be seen questioning Harf in the video below.

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