The homosexual community in Nigeria is reacting strongly to unexpected legislation signed by the country’s president this week that bans homosexual group meetings, same-sex marriage, and public displays of affection by people of the same sex.
The law, called the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, also reportedly affects people who help the gay community.
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"You're not allowed to provide services to anyone who is perceived to be homosexual," Bisi Alimi, head of a gay rights group Kaleidoscope International Diversity Trust, told the BBC
. "When you say that services will not be provided, what you're saying is that HIV services that are catering for men who have sex with men will have to stop."
The law also proposes jail time for anyone violating the restrictions, the BBC reported, quoting the act: "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 country already had a law in place prohibiting homosexual sex.
The Associated Press said some gays in the country have already left
and others are considering doing so if the government begins enforcing this new act.
While the passage of the act has drawn criticism from countries such as the United States and Britain, it reflects the culture in Africa.
Thirty-eight African countries have laws against homosexuality. Uganda’s parliament passed a bill, which currently awaits the president’s signature, making life in prison the punishment for "aggravated" homosexual acts, according to the AP. The president of Gambia has even recommended decapitation as punishment for homosexuals.
A spokesman for the Nigerian government said most Nigerians are happy with the new law and there have been no demonstrations opposing it.
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