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A ban on same-sex relationships, passed by Nigeria's parliament last year, has been signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. US Secretary of State John Kerry has added his voice to international condemnation.
A ban on gay marriage and gay clubs with penalties of up to 14 years jail was signed into law by Nigeria's president last week, according to disclosures made in Abuja on Monday. It follows similar legislation recently adopted by parliament in Uganda.
Nigerian presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said Monday Goodluck Jonathan had signed the bill. The news agency Associated Press said it had obtained a copy dated Tuesday, January 7.
Immediate condemnation came from US Secretary of State Kerry, who said the new law "dangerously restricts freedom of assembly … and expression for all Nigerians."
Amnesty International had previously urged Jonathan to reject the bill, saying it would have "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Nigeria was breaking not just its own constitution but a raft of international agreements, said veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The executive director of the pro-gay Initiative for Equality in Nigeria, Olumide Makanjuola, recently warned that "poor, gay Nigerians" would suffer under the law.
Many rich Nigerians with gay tendencies had already left the country, or said they would fly elsewhere to have sex, she said.
Imprisonment if convicted
Nigeria's new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill bans gay encounters and clubs and threatens public displays of same-sex relationships with up to 10 years in prison.
Persons who "enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union" face 14 years prison if convicted.
"Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognized as valid in Nigeria," the new law states.
Widespread anti-gay sentiment
Anti-gay sentiment is rife in Nigeria and much of sub-Saharan Africa.
Abati said 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage. "So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people," he said.
Of Nigeria's 170-million population, roughly half are Christian and half Muslim. Others follow traditional religious beliefs.
Reuters said the news of the bill's signing, provoked much anti-gay invective on Nigerian social media networks, but there were also those who questioned the priorities of the government of Goodluck Jonathan, who has the acronym GEJ.
"I cannot believe GEJ took time to sign a bill into law jailing people for being gay. I don't have any electricity, dude!," one post read.
Uganda's president withholds signature
Sterner homosexual law clears parliament in UgandaUganda's parliament adopted an anti-gay bill on December 20. It would see repeat offenders jailed for life.
Earlier this month, a spokesman for President Yoweri Museveni said - despite "pressure from religious leaders and parliament to sign the bill into law" - Museveni "won't rush to assent the bill before he studies it" fully.
ipj/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)