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Chad Griffin of HRC has called on the U.S. State Department to work for change in Nigeria.
Ominous reports from Nigeria confirm that gay people are being subjected to torture and arrests in the wake of the enactment of a law criminalizing even meetings between homosexuals. The persecution has spread from Bauchi state to other parts of the country, including both Islamic and Christian areas.
On January 14, 2013, the day after Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a draconian bill that prohibits not only same-sex marriage but also any public display of same-sex relationships and any gathering of homosexuals, the persecution began. Dozens of suspected gay men were arrested in Bauchi state, and at least one has been subjected to a public flogging. Others are languishing in jail.
The BBC reports that arrests under the new law are now occurring in both Islamic states, such as Bauchi, where some three dozen people have been arrested and at least eleven subjected to Sharia trials, where they face a potential death penalty, and in Christian states.
According to the Associated Press, arrests have been made across Nigeria, including in Oyo state in the southwest, six in Imo state in the southeast, eight in central Abuja, and six in Anambra state in the southeast.
Although the crackdown has been widely condemned by the U.S. State Department, the U.K. Foreign Secretary, and the United Nations, little concrete action has been taken in response. Even in the face of the persecution, the U.K. has reportedly increased foreign aid to Nigeria.
On January 17, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on Secretary of State John Kerry to "consider a variety of options to encourage a course correction by Nigeria."
Among the options suggested by Griffin to Secretary Kerry are the following:
1) Directing the U.S. Embassy in Abuja to perform in-country refugee processing for LGBT Nigerians who are being targeted for arrest under the newly passed law.
2) Recommending that President Obama evaluate removing Nigeria from the list of countries currently eligible for assistance under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
3) Suspending bilateral engagements between the United States and Nigeria that are of particular importance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, such as suspending Nigeria's participation in the Young African Leaders Initiative.
4) Using any regulatory, administrative, or statutory means in the Secretary's arsenal to combat implementation of this law.
Griffin concludes his letter to Secretary Kerry with the following plea: "We implore the State Department under your direction, and the Administration, by direction of the President, to take a strong and resounding stance against hate."
In the video below, CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviews Bisi Alimi, the first Nigerian to come out of the closet on TV before fleeing the country for asylum in the U.K. in 2007.