Around 38 of approximately 168 “wanted” gay men have been arrested recently in Nigeria for the crime of being gay as the country’s discriminatory anti-gay law becomes official, the Associated Press reports.
According to activist Dorothy Aken’Ova, the law was being used to persecute gays in the country long before it officially passed. She accused the police of capturing four gay men and torturing them into naming others, in addition to mentioning the alleged wanted list.
Aside from the fact that the law—which mandates 14 years’ imprisonment for gay marriage and up to 10 years for being a member of or supporting gay organizations—”dangerously restricts freedom” of expression and association, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday, many local and international AIDS groups fear that it could hinder the fight against the dangerous disease.
According to UNAIDS—the United Nations agency fighting AIDS—and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, it raises the “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 them.”
The AP notes that Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic globally, with approximately 3.4 million people living with the deadly virus. Data have also shown that the disease affects more gay men (17 percent) than heterosexuals (4 percent), according to 2010 statistics.
Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, who signed the controversial bill into law on Jan. 7, has not voiced any opinions on homosexuality, according to the AP, but his spokesman told the news wire, “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 with it.”
Read more at USA Today.