UN Secretary General expresses deep concern over Nigerian anti-gay law

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The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday expressed deep concern at a new law in Nigeria which further criminalises same-sex relationships.

The internationally condemned law, now nicknamed the “Jail the Gays” law, was signed by President Jonathan some time earlier this month, but announcement of his approval only emerged on Monday.

The UN Secretary General said he feared the bill would fuel prejudice and violence, as well as restricting access to HIV/AIDS information.

“The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them,” Ban’s press office said in a statement.

“As UNAIDS and the Global Fund noted in a statement yesterday, the law also risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS,” Ban said.

Under the terms of the new Nigerian law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be jailed for up to 14 years, and all such unions entered into abroad are made “void”.

It also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship will be punishable with up to ten years in prison – this includes couples holding hands.

“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.

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.