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Nigerian President Signs Bill Criminalizing Same-Sex Relationships

While sodomy is already illegal in Nigeria, a strict new law means same-sex couples could face up to 14 years in prison.

Posted on January 13, 2014, at 12:35 p.m. ET

Stringer . / Reuters

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law on Monday that criminalizes same-sex relationships, despite growing pressure from Western countries to recognize gay and lesbian rights, Reuters reports.

Sodomy is already punishable by jail under existing Nigerian federal law, but under the new law, same-sex relationships in Nigeria may now result in penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

It is also now a crime to have a meeting of gays, or to operate or go to a gay club, society or organization.

The bill was passed by Nigeria's national assembly in May, but the president delayed signing it into law.

Several Western nations have threatened to halt aid to countries that oppress gay and lesbian rights, which has held back anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Malawi. The threats hold little weight over Nigeria, however, a country that funds its budget with an oil output of 2 million barrels per day.

"Yes, Mr. President had signed the bill into law," presidency spokesman Reuben Abati told Reuters. "A statement will be issued on it within the week."

The bill states:

Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison... Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations 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.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released an official statement Monday morning:

The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria's enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians. Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.

People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.

We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens' fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.

Human Rights First said that the law "further institutionalizes discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and threatens the human rights of all Nigerians."

"Human Rights First calls on the United States to urge President Jonathan to repeal this law, decriminalize homosexuality, monitor patterns of hate crime against LGBT people, and address impunity for violent acts," the organization said in a statement on Monday.

Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations, called the new law a "big setback for human rights."

Deeply troubled that #Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed anti-#LGBT law. Big setback for human rights for all Nigerians.

Samantha Power@AmbassadorPower

Deeply troubled that #Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed anti-#LGBT law. Big setback for human rights for all Nigerians.

12:00 AM - 1 Oct 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

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