UK Foreign Secretary William Hague: I am disappointed and concerned by Nigeria’s new anti-gay laws

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Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan for approving a draconian anti-gay bill, saying the UK “will continue to lobby at the highest levels on this issue.”

This afternoon, Mr Hague said: “The UK is a close friend of Nigeria, but we are disappointed that President Jonathan has given his assent to a bill which will further criminalise same-sex relationships in Nigeria. The UK opposes any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“The bill also directly infringes on fundamental rights of expression and association, which are guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and by Nigeria’s international treaty obligations. We are concerned by the prospect this raises of further action against an already marginalised section of society.”

Mr Hague added: “My colleague Jeremy Wright, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, raised our concerns with the Nigerian foreign minister on 9 January, and our high commissioner has raised the issue on a number of occasions with the president and other senior members of the Nigerian Government. We will continue to lobby at the highest levels on this issue.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strong statement condemning Nigeria’s actions earlier this week.

“It is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution,” Mr Kerry said.

On Tuesday, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, described the law as unprecedented for its multiple violations of basic freedoms.

According to the law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership could face up to 14 years in prison. Additionally, same-sex marriages legally performed in other countries would be considered void by the Nigerian Government.

The law also restricts LGBT citizens from meeting in public settings.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan quietly approved the law earlier this month, but news only emerged on Monday.

Reports out of Nigeria say dozens of gay men have recently been arrested in the country, many through police entrapment.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has defended its decision to increase aid to Nigeria despite recent events by saying that the country’s government does not actually receive any of the money and it only goes to NGOs (non-governmental organisations).