Gay men in Nigeria are being hunted down, tortured, and jailed because of a new law that criminalizes homosexuality, according to gay rights organizations.
The country's Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act outlaws groups and movements that promotes gays, with prison terms up to 10 years for violators, according to the Associated Press.
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LGBT activists have complained that Nigerian police are using heavy-handed tactics to enforce anti-gay measures that are becoming increasingly common throughout the continent.
Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, told the Associated Press of a case in which a police officer pretended to be a gay man to gain access to a gay rights organization and subsequently arrested four men.
She claimed that police then pressured the men to give up names of others involved in the organization. Authorities have arrested 38 in the group and looking for 168 more.
As a result, gay men are fleeing the country.
"When discriminatory bills like this are passed, we are always concerned that they set the stage for violence and ill-treatment in society even when they are not enforced," Shawn Gaylord, of the Washington, D.C.-based organization Human Rights First, told the Associated Press. "But the fact that this law is being enforced so quickly and forcefully demonstrates the full extent of Nigeria's human rights crisis."
Nigeria is not the first African country to pass strong anti-gay laws. Uganda passed a law last month that calls for life sentences for "aggravated" homosexual sex.
The Los Angeles Times reported that a Pew Research Center report found Nigerians
to be the most intolerant of gays among 39 countries examined, with 98 percent of Nigerian survey respondents saying homosexuality should not be accepted by society. The report, titled "The Global Divide on Homosexuality," stated that more than 90 percent of respondents in Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories expressed similar views.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Monday condemning the law.
"This law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians," Kerry said. "Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution."
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