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Nigeria Islamic court puts 11 gay Muslims on trial

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The BBC announced on Wednesday that an Islamic Court in Nigeria's northern state of Bauchi has put 11 Muslim men on trial for allegedly being homosexual, in violation of their religion.

An additional man, a Christian, also accused of being a homosexual, will be tried in a secular court. Under Islamic law, a person convicted of being a homosexual can be sentenced to death by stoning.

Most of Nigeria's predominately Muslim northern states have adopted Islamic law, known as Sharia, ever since military rule ended in 1999. It is illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria.

Earlier this month, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law sweeping legislation, tightening the laws against homosexual encounters, open affection or gathering in gay bars, as well as banning same-sex marriages.

Nigeria is a very conservative country, with a strong evangelical Christian population in the southern half of the country. The northern states, being predominately Muslim, mostly support Islamic laws. Hostility against gays has escalated ever since parliament began debating the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2013.

So far, 38 people have been arrested in Bauchi since the new law went into effect. It is not known how many people have been arrested in the south for homosexuality. Dorothy Aken'Ova, a gay rights activist said, "What this act is saying is that they [gay people] do not deserve to exist. It is heartbreaking that we have come to this point in Nigeria."

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