Late last year, many across the globe cried in outrage after the nation of Uganda passed a strict and cruel legislation which outlawed homosexuality in its borders. Now, the nation of Nigeria has followed suit and passed a bill outlawing homosexuality and is causing a massive witch hunt of gays in the country.
According to the Huffington Post, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan defied pressure from several Western governments and signed a bill, dubbed the “Jail the Gays” bill, on Monday that criminalizes gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups.
“Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” the bill says.
“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison,” it also says.
Not surprisingly, the new law sparked a sharp rise an online anti-gay sentiment and reports claim that dozens of Nigerian citizens have already been hunted down and arrested for being gay, according to CBS News.
Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights says that the new bill not only promotes anti-gay violence, but that it also endangers HIV-AIDS prevention in LGBT communities.
One activist, who refused to reveal his identity, claims that he’s helped 38 men place bail since Christmas time after being arrested for being in gay organizations.
However, Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, which oversees regulation of Islamic law, told the AP that 11 gay men have been arrested in the past two weeks. He claims that citizens have been helping police “fish out” other LGBT citizens to arrest.
“We are on the hunt for others,” he said, refusing to specify how many.
Although Nigerian law enforcers are notorious for using torture tactics and taking bribes, Ilela claims that no foul play has been involved in any of the arrests.
“They have never been tortured, they have never been beaten, they have never been intimidated,” said Ilela about those who have been arrested, all of whom signed a confession that they were in gay organizations. However, some of them retracted those statements in court.
Olumide Makanjuola of the Initiative For Equality in Nigeria claims, though, that law enforcers are using illegal tactics to arrest people, saying they regularly go through the cell phone of a gay suspect, then send text messages to lure in others.
“Some pay 5,000, some 10,000 naira ($30 to $60). Even though they have done nothing wrong. People are scared, people are afraid that even worse things will happen,” Makanjuola said.
Lawyers for the the Initiative For Equality in Nigeria are currently backing lawsuits of several homosexuals arrested by police without cause.
However, according to President Jonathan’s description of the bill, sadly appears that many more will be unjustly arrested.
“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,” said Jonathan’s rep, Reuben Abati. – nicholas robinson