Group: Nigeria arrests gay ‘suspects’ under new law banning homosexuality
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — Nigerian authorities arrested 10 people believed to be gay men under a bill signed this week that bans same-sex marriages, rights groups said.
Police detained men in various states and have dozens of pending arrests based on perceived sexual orientation, according to Amnesty International.
“Reports that the police in one state are apparently drawing up lists of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community to target are extremely worrying,” said Makmid Kamara, a researcher for the rights group.
In Bauchi state, the rights group said police placed “a list of suspected gay people” under surveillance. The group said police arrested the men in Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Oyo states.
CNN attempts to reach Nigerian police spokesman Frank Mba were unsuccessful.
President Goodluck Jonathan signed the bill Monday after parliament passed it last year, despite international pressure against it.
It bans same-sex marriages and civil unions, and includes sentences of up to 14 years in prison for gay couples. The bill also forbids the operation of gay clubs, societies or meetings in Nigeria. The punishment for such acts is 10 years in prison.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the United Nations in condemning the bill.
“This law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians,” Kerry said. “People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.”
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns, saying he was alarmed by reports of arrests and torture. He said he fears the bill will lead to violence and discrimination. .
Last month, the Ugandan parliament passed controversial legislation that would make some gay acts punishable by life in prison. President Yoweri Museveni has not signed it yet.
Homosexuality is illegal in most African nations based on remnants of sodomy laws introduced during the British colonial era. The laws are perpetuated by cultural and religious beliefs.
Punishments across the continent range from fines to years in prison.
Last year, a Pew Research Center report found African and Muslim nations are the least accepting of homosexuality.
Of the 39 countries surveyed, Nigeria was the most intolerant. At least 98% of respondents in the nation said homosexuality is unacceptable.
CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers reported from Lagos, and Faith Karimi from Atlanta. CNN’s Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.
By Faith Karimi and Vladimir Duthiers
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