15 Jan 2014

Nigeria anti-gay laws condemned

2:28 pm on 15 January 2014

The United Nations human rights chief has condemned what she calls a draconian new law in Nigeria criminalising same sex marriage and gay organisations.

It is already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria, and under new legislation same-sex couples could face up to 14 years in prison.

The legislation was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan without announcement and bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she had rarely seen legislation "that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights."

Gay rights activists have also expressed fears about the tightening of laws against homosexuals.

Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi told the BBC the law would also affect those trying to assist gay people.

"You're not allowed to provide services to anyone who is perceived to be homosexual," said Mr Alimi, who heads the UK-based gay rights group Kaleidoscope International Diversity Trust.

"When you say that services will not be provided, what you're saying is that HIV services that are catering for men who have sex with men will have to stop," he said.

The new law recommends prison sentences of up to 10 years for anyone who participates in gay clubs or organisations and for same-sex couples who publicly show affection.

The act, which was adopted by the Senate in 2011 and passed by the lower house of parliament last May, was signed by the president earlier this month.