News / Africa

Nigeria Arrests Gays Under Controversial New Law

Nigeria Arrests Gays Under Controversial New Lawi
X
January 22, 2014 12:21 AM
Since President Goodluck Jonathan signed a popular anti-gay bill into law, hostility towards gays in Nigeria has continued to escalate. Activists say arrests are being made and they are hearing reports of mob violence. For VOA, Heather Murdock has more from Abuja.
Heather Murdock
Since President Goodluck Jonathan signed a wildly popular anti-gay bill into law earlier this month, hostility towards gays in Nigeria continues to escalate.  Activists say arrests are being made and they are hearing reports of mob violence.
 
About half of Nigerians are Muslim and half are Christian.  Recently, the two religions have come together in support of a new law that criminalizes gay organizations and punishes gay marriage with up to 14 years in prison.
 
At a shimmering church in the capital city, Pastor Simon A.S. Dolly, the president of the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, says the law will protect Nigeria from the wrath of God.
 
"Nigeria is a religious country and we are religious people," he said. "We agree with the president on this issue.  I think this is one of the best things the president has done this year for us.  Because we are a cultured people as Africans and to us, man marrying man, woman marrying woman - it’s uncultured.”
 
Western governments and rights organizations have widely condemned the law, saying it violates rights guaranteed by Nigerian and international law and has led to “witch hunts.”
 
Human rights defender Ifeanyi Orazulike says it has always been illegal and dangerous to be gay in Nigeria, but the law has lead to a surge of hostility.
 
“People are being arrested in different states," he said. "There has also been lots of hate-speeches coming from religious leaders and the general population.”

Eleven men are on trial in northern Nigeria under the law and Amnesty International says arrests have been made in four other states, with police working off long lists of names.
 
Orazulike says a small network of activists in Nigeria are trying to keep each other safe and gain support through awareness campaigns on Twitter and Facebook.

“We are always on the alert," he said. "We are talking here and there, making phone calls, confirming to be sure that people are okay wherever they are and following up situations.”

Activists say that because the law criminalizes anyone who provides services for gays or supports gay groups, the list of people who could be arrested under the law is long and varied.
 
In a sprawling slum in central Nigeria, a rights activist who doesn’t want to be named for safety reasons, says he's heard reports of mob violence against gays as religious and political leaders speak publicly in support of the bill.

He also says the law could have other negative consequences for Nigeria, like increasing HIV rates among gay men, and eventually the general population.  
 
“You’re driving them more underground.  They are not able to access health services," he said. "And the few, few, very few, few, handful of organizations that are actually even trying to provide this support, like HIV treatment or awareness education to the gay community will also go underground.”
 
As Nigeria battles insurgency in the north, and militancy in the south, he says, the passing of this law appears to be a political move in advance of elections next year.
 
Supporters of the law say it reflects the will of the Nigerian people and the will of God.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid