Just one day after the international community learned that Nigeria's president signed into law a sweeping and draconian bill that criminalizes virtually every aspect of public LGBT life, reports are coming in that at least 38 gay men have already been arrested.
The arrests are happening in the Bauchi state, located in the predominantly Muslim northern part of the country.
From the Associated Press:
Human rights activists reported that dozens of gay men were being arrested in northern Nigeria in an apparent response to the law. The United States, Britain and Canada condemned the law, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that it "dangerously restricts freedom" of expression and association of all Nigerians...
Activist Dorothy Aken'Ova said the new legislation, already dubbed the "Jail the Gays" law, will endanger and even criminalize programs fighting HIV-AIDS in the gay community. Aken'Ova is executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights based in Minna, Niger state.
Even before it was the passed, the law was being used to persecute gays, she said. In Bauchi state, she said police entrapped four gay men and tortured them into naming others. She said the police have drawn up a list of 168 wanted gay men, of whom 38 have been arrested recently.
Jonathan, Nigeria's president, has not publicly expressed his views on homosexuality. But his spokesman, Reuben Abati, told The Associated Press on Monday night, "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."
As we've previously reported here at the Bilerico Project, Nigeria's new law makes it a crime for gay and lesbian Nigerians to wed, even outside the country. Same-sex couples who marry will be punished by up to 14 years in prison, and anyone who administers or witnesses a same-sex wedding -- including clergy, family, and wedding guests -- can also be jailed for up to 10 years.
The law also imposes 10-year prison sentences for a host of activities including providing services for gay and lesbian couples, public displays of same-sex affection, and LGBT rights advocacy of any kind, including operating or participating in an LGBT group.
Gay sex was already illegal in Nigeria prior to the passage of this law.
With a population of nearly 175 million people, Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and the seventh most populated country on Earth.
The United States is Nigeria's largest trading partner.
Watch the Washington Blade's Chris Johnson grill U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf about Nigeria's new anti-LGBT law, after the jump.