Under the new law, same-sex “amorous relationships” are banned, as is membership in gay rights groups, prohibitions that have sparked both fear and defiance among Nigeria’s gay activists. The government “have just legalized violence, stigma and discrimination,” a gay man in Lagos, who asked not to be identified for his safety, told AFP. “Our situation has gone from bad to worse.” The man said that he particularly feared for LGBT people in majority-Muslim northern Nigeria, a region that is administered partly under Islamic law.
The new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of HIV infection, undermining the success of the Presidential Comprehensive Response Plan for HIV/AIDS which was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan less than a year ago.
The health, development and human rights implications of the new law are potentially far-reaching. Homosexuality is already criminalized in Nigeria. The new law further criminalizes LGBT people, organizations and activities. The law states, “A person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable to conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.” The law also criminalizes any individuals or group of people who support “the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria.” The conviction is also 10 years imprisonment.
Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally––in 2012, there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. In 2010, national HIV prevalence in Nigeria was estimated at 4% among the general population and 17% among men who have sex with men.
The provisions of the law could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. It could also be used against organizations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people.