President Barack Obama meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in New York, in this Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 file photo.
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Police, working off a list of 168 suspects
purportedly obtained through torture, are arresting dozens of gay men in
Nigeria's northern Bauchi state, human rights activists said Tuesday.
A new law in Nigeria, dubbed the "Jail the Gays" bill, is encouraging
the persecution of gays and will endanger programs fighting HIV-AIDS in
the gay community, said Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of
Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual
On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan's office confirmed that the
Nigerian leader signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that
criminalizes gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or
In Bauchi state, police entrapped four gay men and tortured them into
naming others, Aken'Ova said. She said the police have drawn up a list
of 168 wanted gay men, of whom 38 have been arrested in recent weeks.
She said the arrests began during the Christmas holidays and blamed
"all the noise that was going on surrounding the (same sex marriage
The chairman of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, Mustapha Baba Ilela,
told the AP that 11 men have been arrested in the past two weeks and
charged with belonging to a gay organization. He denied anyone had been
tortured and said all 11 - 10 Muslims and a non-Muslim - signed
confessions that they belonged to a gay organization but that some of
them retracted the statements when they were charged by a judge.
Shariah is Islamic law, which is implemented to different degrees in nine of 36 states.
An AIDS counselor told The Associated Press he helped get bail for
the men and also said a total of 38 were arrested. He spoke on condition
of anonymity for fear he would be arrested. Aken'Ova's organization is
providing legal services for them.
The AIDS counselor said the arrests were sparked by a rumor that the
United States paid $20 million to gay activists to promote same-sex
marriage in this highly religious and conservative nation.
The United States, Britain and Canada condemned the new law in
Africa's most populous nation, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying
Monday that it "dangerously restricts freedom" of expression and
association of all Nigerians.
Jonathan's spokesman said the president signed the Same Sex Marriage
Prohibition Act on Jan. 7, providing penalties of up to 14 years in jail
for a gay marriage and up to 10 years' imprisonment for membership or
encouragement of gay club, societies and organizations.
The U.N. agency to fight AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria expressed "deep concern that access to HIV
services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be
severely affected by a new law in Nigeria - further criminalizing LGBT
people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support
The law also criminalizes people and groups who support "the
registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies and
organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria." Those convicted
could be jailed for 10 years.
UNAIDS said the law could harm Jonathan's own presidential initiative to fight AIDS, started a year ago.
It said Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally with an
estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV. The disease affects many
more gay men than heterosexuals, with 2010 statistics estimating
national HIV prevalence at 4 percent compared to 17 percent among gay
men, according to UNAIDS.
Jonathan has not publicly expressed his views on homosexuality.
His spokesman, Reuben Abati, told The Associated Press on Monday
night, "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