January 14

Dozens arrested under anti-gay law in north Nigeria

Human rights activists said that people are being hunted down and arrested under the new Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act enacted in Nigeria.

By Michelle Faul

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2011 file photo, Rashidi Williams, a gay man, rides in a car in Lagos, Nigeria. Local and international groups fighting AIDS warned on Tuesday that a new Nigerian law criminalizing same-sex marriage and gay organizations will jeopardize the fight against the deadly disease.

The Associated Press

While harsh, Nigeria’s law is not as draconian as a bill passed last month by legislators in Uganda that is awaiting President Yoweri Museveni’s signature. It provides penalties including life imprisonment for “aggravated” homosexual sex. Initially, legislators had been demanding the death sentence for gays.

The Nigeria law provides penalties of up to 14 years in jail for a gay marriage and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for membership or encouragement of gay clubs, societies and organizations. That could include even groups formed to combat AIDS among gays, activists said.

The U.N. agency fighting AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria expressed “deep concern that access to HIV services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be severely affected by a new law in Nigeria – further criminalizing LGBT people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them.”

UNAIDS said the law could harm Jonathan’s own presidential initiative to fight AIDS, started a year ago.

It said Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic globally with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus. The disease affects many more gay men per capita than heterosexuals.

Jonathan has not publicly expressed his views on homosexuality.

But his spokesman, Reuben Abati, told The Associated Press on Monday night, “This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people. ... Nigerians are pleased with it.”

Many have asked why such a law is needed in a country where sodomy already was outlawed, and could get you killed under Shariah. Ilela said sodomy carries the death sentence in Bauchi state, with a judge deciding whether it should be done by a public stoning or by lethal injection. No gay person has been subjected to such punishment.

Associated Press writer Shehu Saulawa contributed to this report from Bauchi, Nigeria.

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