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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 17 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 03
Nigerian police begin mass arrests of Gays - U.S. condemns stringent anti-Gay law
Section One
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Nigerian police begin mass arrests of Gays - U.S. condemns stringent anti-Gay law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Nigerian police began a mass arrest of Gay men in the northern state of Bauchi, human rights activists reported on January 16. One has already been convicted and publicly whipped.

A new law, titled the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, criminalizes same-sex marriage, LGBT organizations, and anyone working with or promoting them. The measure was passed last year, and Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan secretly signed the law on January 7, but news that it has been enacted only reached the outside world with reports of mass arrests.

At least 11 and as many as 38 people are reported to have been arrested. Police are said to have obtained a list of 168 Gay suspects through torture.

The chairman of Bauchi state Sharia Commission, Mustapha Baba Ilela, told Associated Press that 11 men have been arrested in the past two weeks and charged with belonging to a Gay organization. He denied anyone had been tortured and said all 11 - 10 Muslims and one Christian - signed confessions, but that some of them retracted the statements when they were charged by a judge.

Sharia, or Islamic law, is implemented to different degrees in nine of Nigeria's 36 states. President Jonathan is a Christian, but his government is dominated by Muslims from Nigeria's northern states.

According to BBC News, one man, 20-year old Mubarak Ibrahim, was punished by a sharia court on January 16, and two other prisoners have had their trials adjourned till January 23.

Ibrahim pleaded guilty to the charges, but said he had engaged in Gay sex as a boy seven years ago, and had now stopped doing so. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to 20 lashes and a fine of $30.

BBC correspondent Ishaq Khalid said the whipping was immediately carried out in the packed courtroom, with Ibrahim stretched out on a bench. Ibrahim 'screamed in pain while being lashed, but was able to walk afterwards,' Khalid said.

Ibrahim told BBC that 'he was relieved that Judge Nuhu Muhammad had been lenient on him and had not sentenced him to death,' the maximum possible sentence under sharia law.

Dorothy Aken'Ova, Executive Director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, told AP that a total of 38 Gay men had been arrested, and police have put together a list of 168 suspects.

Police originally entrapped four Gay men by inviting them over social media to meet for sex, then arrested and tortured them until they revealed additional names, she said.

Aken'Ova said the arrests began during the Christmas holidays and blamed 'all the noise that was going on surrounding the (same sex marriage prohibition) bill.'

An AIDS counselor told AP that he helped get bail for the arrestees and confirmed Aken'Ova's report that 38 were arrested. He said the arrests were sparked by a rumor that the United States paid $20 million to Gay activists to promote same-sex marriage in Nigeria.

The AIDS counselor spoke on condition of anonymity for fear he would also be arrested. Aken'Ova's organization is providing legal services for the men, he added.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the new law on January 14.

'Beyond even prohibiting same-sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians,' Kerry said in a statement. 'People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.'

'It is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution,' he added.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, characterized the law as a 'big setback for human rights for all Nigerians.'

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights previously condemned the legislation.

Jonathan's spokesperson, Reuben Abati, told AP on January 13, '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.'

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