Homophobic law might hamper AIDS effort, Human Rights group fears.

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Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo’s outlawing of homosexuality looks set to become law. The ex military dictator was elected in 1999, but his government is offering little resistance to his legislative desires.

Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said that the new bill which makes homosexuality a criminal offence had been approved during a cabinet meeting chaired by president Obasanjo, and would be forwarded immediately to lawmakers to be written into the constitution.

The bill, which makes homosexuality an offence punishable by 5 years imprisonment also prescribes punishment for anyone who organises gay rights organisations, and anyone who partakes in, sanctions or witnesses gay marriages. Churches and Mosques will not be allowed to bless gay unions or partnerships, the bill rules.

It also legislates against groups created to help and support gay people. It is feared that this will seriously hamper Nigeria’s efforts to combat the spread of the HIV virus, because it criminalizes some of the groups involved in the work.

Approximately 3.6 million people in Nigeria are thought to be infected with HIV. It has the third highest population of Aids suffers in the world.