ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has signed a draconian anti-gay law banning same-sex marriage and outlawing anyone from forming organizations supporting gay rights, setting prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders.
“I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law,” Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman Reuben Abati told AFP, without specifying a date but adding that it happened earlier this month.
Abati said Jonathan signed off on the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 because it “was consistent with the attitudes of most people towards homosexuality in the West African nation”.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the measure on Monday, indicating Jonathan had signed it on January 7.
Under the bill, anyone suspected of being gay, whether they or not they have had a same-sex encounter, could be in violation of the law.
The bill punishes anyone attempting to instigate a same-sex marriage or civil union by 14 years imprisonment, and outlaws “gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings,” or anyone who helps them, imposing jail time of up to 10 years for offenders.
In addition, the bill prohibits the “public show of same-sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly.”
The bill defines same-sex civil union as any form of arrangement between people of the same-sex, which means any same-sex relationship could be punished with a 14-year jail term.
Additionally, Nigerian citizens must report to authorities any person who they suspect is gay, or risk themselves a five year jail term.
Gay Nigerians, their families, neighbors and loved ones have been in a state of panic since the country’s Senate passed the bill on Dec. 19, and have faced the new year with increasing fear that the bill would be signed into law.
Nigeria has refused calls from U.S. and European leaders, and organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, asking Jonathan to veto the bill.
Since the bill was first introduced in 2011, anti-gay sentiment and violence has been reportedly on the rise.
Homosexuality is already illegal in the federal system of Nigeria, and is punished in different states in varying degrees of severity.
But under the new law, the mere rumor of being gay in Nigeria could lead to violence, blackmail and imprisonment.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian LGBT rights advocate told LGBTQ Nation:
“Any form of assistance to LGBT people is now illegal, which may well translate into more young people becoming homeless and social and state violence,” Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian LGBT rights advocate told LGBTQ Nation. “Furthermore any safer sex prevention work with men having sex with men is now illegal and will surely exacerbate HIV infection rates and death from AIDS related illness.”
“The authorities and society will now feel safe and secure to persecute LGBT people violently, knowing that that the law supports them,” said Mac-Iyalla.
“Gay people will have the choice of facing mob ‘justice’ or being jailed by the state,” he said. “Those who try to lead some sort of unbearable life in hiding will always be at risk blackmail or worse.”
Mac-Iyalla said the international community must come out in full force to challenge the law.
“The world speaks about anti-gay laws in Russia, India and Uganda — now it’s time to speak out for LGBT Nigerians,” he said. “Barack Obama, David Cameron and the UN have not done enough. Their voices and actions are needed now.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was “deeply concerned” by a law that “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.”