The BBC reported on Tuesday that Nigeria's president signed into law legislation that would ban same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection. The law was signed without public notification.
It is already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria, and under the new law, couple in a same-sex marriage could face up to 14 years in prison. The law extends to those people and organizations that help gay people.
Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi, head of the U.K.-based gay-rights group, Kaleidoscope International Diversity Trust, told a reporter, "You're not allowed to provide services to anyone who is perceived to be homosexual."
"When you say that services will not be provided, what you're saying is that HIV services that are catering to men who have sex with men will have to stop," Alimi said.
The new law also recommends a 10-year prison sentence for anyone going to gay clubs or organizations as well as gay couples showing any affection in public. The law, called "The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act," further says,
"Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison."
The act was adopted by the Senate in 2011 and was not passed by the lower house of parliament until May, 2013. The legislation was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this month.
Reuben Abati, a presidential spokesman told the press, "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."
Secretary of State, John Kerry condemned the sweeping legislation, saying in a statement that “beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.”
Kerry went on to say the legislation was "inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.”
Nigeria has had anti-sodomy laws on the books for many years, inheriting its anti-homosexual laws from when it was a British colony. In some parts of the country's Muslim-majority northern areas, strict Sharia laws are enforced, and homosexuals are still stoned to death.
The homosexual community has already been forced underground, and there is fear by many gay-rights activists that the new law could usher in a violent crackdown. Some political analysts say the signing of the law by President Jonathan is nothing more than a bid on his part to get back into the good graces of the highly religious public after a run of political setbacks since his 2011.