ABUJA — Since President Goodluck Jonathan signed a wildly popular anti-gay bill into law earlier this month, hostility towards gays in Nigeria continues to escalate. Activists say arrests are being made and they are hearing reports of mob violence.
About half of Nigerians are Muslim and half are Christian. Recently, the two religions have come together in support of a new law that criminalizes gay organizations and punishes gay marriage with up to 14 years in prison.
At a shimmering church in the capital city, Pastor Simon A.S. Dolly, the president of the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, says the law will protect Nigeria from the wrath of God.
"Nigeria is a religious country and we are religious people," he said. "We agree with the president on this issue. I think this is one of the best things the president has done this year for us. Because we are a cultured people as Africans and to us, man marrying man, woman marrying woman – it’s uncultured.”
Western governments and rights organizations have widely condemned the law, saying it violates rights guaranteed by Nigerian and international law and has led to “witch hunts.”
Human rights defender Ifeanyi Orazulike says it has always been illegal and dangerous to be gay in Nigeria, but the law has lead to a surge of hostility.
“People are being arrested in different states," he said. "There has also been lots of hate-speeches coming from religious leaders and the general population.”
Eleven men are on trial in northern Nigeria under the law and Amnesty International says arrests have been made in four other states, with police working off long lists of names.
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