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New Nigeria Anti-Gay Law Resulting in Arrests, Jeopardizes Anti-AIDS Fight, Experts Say

January 14, 2014

This article was reported by the Brandon Sun.

The Brandon Sun reported that a new Nigerian law signed on January 7, the Same Sex Prohibition Act, established penalties of up to 14 years' imprisonment for gay marriage and up to 10 years in jail for "membership or encouragement of gay" clubs, societies, and organizations. The criminalization of same-sex marriage and gay organizations could jeopardize anti-HIV/AIDS efforts in Nigeria, according to local and international groups. Human rights activists stated that the law already had resulted in arrests of dozens of gay men in northern Nigeria.

The United States, Britain, and Canada have condemned the law, and international organizations, including the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, voiced "deep concern" that the law would affect access to HIV services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and those who supported them. According to UNAIDS, Nigeria had the "second largest HIV epidemic" in the world, with approximately 3.4 million HIV-infected people. HIV prevalence was 4 percent among the general population and 17 percent among gay men. UNAIDS expected the law to affect Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's year-old anti-AIDS initiative adversely.

Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, feared the "jail-the-gays" law could criminalize even organizations working to prevent HIV among gays. Aken'Ova noted that police in Bauchi state had "entrapped four gay men and tortured them" into naming other gays, compiling a list of 168 for arrest. She stated that 38 of the listed men already were in jail. Although Jonathan has not made a public statement of his beliefs about homosexuality, Presidential Spokesperson Reuben Abati asserted that the Nigerian people liked the law, which aligned with their "cultural and religious inclination."

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