Nigerian gay activists are warning there will be unintended consequences from a new law banning same-sex marriage and any advocacy on behalf of LGBT people.
The law, which would imprison people for a decade for taking part in or witnessing a same-sex marriage, was passed by both the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives last year and could be signed at any time by the Nigerian president, Goodluck Johnathan.
The International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health is a Nigerian organization that provides HIV care and prevention for LGBTs and its executive director, Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike, told the Voice of America that the law would be a step back for the fight against AIDS in the country.
‘Human rights violations of sexual minorities would increase,’ Orazulike said.
‘The prevalence rate of HIV infection would also increase because people would no longer be comfortable to come out to access services and it would drive people underground.’
The group’s human rights and advocacy officer John Adeniyi said the bill would criminalize all of the organizations that supported the rights of LGBTs in the country, but said that debate over the law had pushed some people to become more public about their sexuality.
‘A lot of people are going back into the closet while some people who weren’t out before are coming out to say … this is [about] human rights and we really need to talk about it,’ Adeniyi said.
Prior to the anti-same-sex marriage bill, Nigeria already punished homosexuality with sentences of up to 14 years imprisonment.