A new law in Nigeria, signed by the president without announcement, has made it illegal for gay people to even hold a meeting. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act also criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations and organizations, with penalties of up to 14 years in jail.
The act has drawn international condemnation from countries such as the US and Britain. Some Nigerian gays already have fled the country because of rules against their sexual persuasion.
Nigeria’s law is not as draconian as a Ugandan bill passed by parliament last month which would punish “aggravated” homosexual acts with life in prison. It awaits the president’s signature.
Nigeria’s law reflects a highly religious and conservative society that considers homosexuality a deviation. Nigeria is one of 38 African countries — about 70 percent of the continent — that have laws against homosexuality, according to Amnesty International.
A copy of the act obtained from the House of Representatives in Abuja showed it was signed by lawmakers and senators unanimously on Dec. 17 last year, though no announcement was made. It was signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday last week.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the US is “deeply concerned” by a law that “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians.”
Britain said: “The UK opposes any form of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
Washington-based Human Rights First urged US President Barack Obama to “consider all avenues for response,” saying leaders such as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni would be watching.
The motivation for the law is unclear, given that Nigeria already has one against homosexual sex and gay people were not demanding to be married.