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Nigeria: Gay men hunted down and tortured

Wed 15 Jan 2014 In: International News View at NDHA

There are reports dozens of gay men are being arrested and tortured into naming others, in witch-hunts by police armed with Nigeria’s new “jail the gays” law. An AIDS counsellor has told The Associated Press the crackdown in Bauchi state began with a wild rumour that the United States had paid gay activists $20 million to promote same-sex marriage. He says he’s helped get bail for 38 men arrested since Christmas. Nigeria’s President has just this week confirmed he’s signed a law banning marriage equality, gay support groups and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. Nigeria's International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights is helping with legal services for the arrested men. Executive director Dorothy Aken'Ova has told AP a law enforcement officer pretending to be a gay man joined a group being counselled on AIDS. She says police detained four gay men and then tortured them until they named others allegedly belonging to a gay organization, she said, adding that police now have a list of 168 wanted gay men. Others say police are going through the phones of people they arrest and sending text messages to try and trap other gay men. Officials deny there has been any torture or intimidation. Human Rights Watch says the news law is a sweeping and dangerous piece of legislation. “This law criminalizes the lives of gay and lesbian people, but the damage it would cause extends to every single Nigerian,” says LGBT Rights Director Graeme Reid. “It undermines basic universal freedoms that Nigerians have long fought to defend and is a throwback to past decades under military rule when civil rights were treated with contempt.” He adds: “The law is so vague that it is likely to lead to the arbitrary arrest of gay people, while facilitating extortion and blackmail of vulnerable groups by members of Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt security services. “This law threatens to further marginalize an already stigmatized population, driving them underground and imperilling their rights and their health.” UNAIDS says it could severely impact access to HIV services and further criminalise lgbti people, and those who support them. Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic globally with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus.      

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 15th January 2014 - 10:00am

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