Human rights activists have reported that disproportionate numbers of gay men are being arrested in northern Nigeria as a response to the new law that will criminalize same-sex marriages.
On January 7, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill that criminalizes same-sex marriage, which provided penalties of up to fourteen years in jail for each member of a married gay couple and up to ten years’ imprisonment for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs, societies and organizations. The law also prohibits any homosexual public displays of affection.
According to Gay Star News, Nigeria has already arrested 38 gay men, with the police already allegedly drawing up a list of 168 wanted gay men. Since the signing of the “Jail All The Gays” bill, which effectively criminalized not only gay sex but being gay, people who are openly LGBT risk imprisonment regardless of whether or not they have sex.
According to local police, eleven of the thirty-eight arrested have signed “confessions” that they belong to a gay organization.
Activist Dorothy Aken’Ova said that four gay men were also tortured into naming others in Bauchi state.
With the arrests being made, not only will gay individuals and gay rights organizations be targeted, but the law will also affect programs fighting HIV/AIDS in the gay community.
UNAIDS said the law could even harm the President’s own presidential initiative to fight AIDS, which was started a year ago.
Although Jonathan has not publicly expressed his own views on homosexuality, his spokesman Reuben Abati told the Associated Press, “More than 90% of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people.”