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Nigeria anti-gay law 'draconian': UN rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday criticized Nigeria's new law on the prohibition of same-sex marriage, calling the legislation a direct violation of basic, universal human rights. Earlier this month [press release] Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill into law, placing a 14-year prison sentence upon anyone who enters into a same-sex union and a 10-year sentence upon anyone who either aids and abets a same-sex marriage or supports the sustenance of "gay societies." While same-sex marriage was already criminalized in Nigeria, the new law extends criminal penalties [press release] to those who take part in, witness, or help organize a same-sex marriage. Members of UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria [advocacy websites] expressed concern [AFP report] over the ability of LGBT people to access vital health services as a result of the new law, especially given that Nigeria has the second-largest HIV population in the world at 3.4 million, according to 2012 estimates.

Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African nations [CGE backgrounder], and South Africa is the only country on the continent where same-sex marriage is not prohibited [BBC report]. In November Malawi's government changed its position [JURIST report] on a decision to suspend it laws barring same-sex marriage and homosexuality after being pressured by a number of churches. This follows Malawi President Joyce Banda's announcement in her first national address [text] last May that she would decriminalize homosexual acts [JURIST report].

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