POLICE across Nigeria have begun arresting lesbians and gays following President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent signing into law of a new Draconian bill that makes being homosexual an offence punishable for 14 years in jail.
Earlier this month, President Jonathan put his signature to the controversial Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law. Condemned internationally as a fundamental breach of human rights, the law stipulates that anyone convicted of engaging in a same sex marriage is liable to serve 14 years in prison, while anyone aiding or abetting such relationships faces a 10 year jail term.
Human rights groups like Amnesty International have widely condemned the law as an infraction of Nigeria’s human rights obligations and gay rights campaigners plan to picket Nigeria’s high commissions and embassies worldwide. Also, the campaigners are calling on Nigeria’s trading partners to boycott Nigerian goods and spurn tourism with the country.
Defiant, however, the Nigerian authorities have stepped up their campaign against homosexuals and so far this week, the police in Bauchi have arrested 38 people suspected of being gay. It is likely that they will be charged under the new law in what will be a controversial trial attracting international attention.
Already, the US and the UK have warned that they may cut funding for HIV/Aids projects in Nigeria if the government keeps up its witchhunt of gays. Nigeria is not dependent on development aid like many other African countries but her HIV/Aids programme receives a lot of international funding.
One Aids counsellor said: “Authorities responded to an unfounded rumour that the US had paid gay activists $20m to promote same-sex marriage. An officer pretending to be a gay man then joined a group being counselled on Aids.”
Dorothy Aken’Ova, the executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, confirmed that the clampdown has begun. She said police detained four gay men over the Christmas holidays and tortured them until they named others allegedly belonging to their organization.
According to Ms Aken’Ova, following the arrest of the 38 men, the police are looking for 168 others who are members of an organisation that provides free legal services to gay men. She added that she has helped secure bail for some of the 38 detainees but dozens of homosexuals have fled Bauchi in recent days following the arrests.
Mustapha Baba Ilela, the chairman of the Bauchi State Sharia Commission, which oversees the regulation of Islamic law, confirmed that 11 gay men have been arrested over the past two weeks. He said community members helped fish the suspects out, adding that they are on the hunt for others. – See more at:
Credit: NigerianWatch.com | Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:41