UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has condemned Nigeria’s new law, designed to round up and imprison all gay people in the country.
She said the bill violates Nigeria’s own equality legislation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The ‘Jail All the Gays Bill’ has been passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and is just awaiting signature from President Goodluck Jonathan.
LGBT activists have said the politicians passed the measure in part because they, and Jonathan, want to detract from serious problems in the country.
If it becomes law, openly gay people would be imprisoned whether or not they have sex.
A clause designed to round-up gays and lesbians states anyone who knows somebody who is gay will have to tell the authorities or risk five years jail.
Any same-sex couple who got married would be punished by up to 14 years prison and 10 for anyone else involved in the ceremony. Even wedding guests could be jailed.
And ‘any person who directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships’ would also get a 10 year sentence.
But Pillay, speaking on the BBC, said: ‘I am very concerned that the rights of LGBT people, the sexual orientation rights, are being violated, that they are subjected to discrimination.
‘I condemn this law of Nigeria because it violated the equality clause both of Nigerian law and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’
And she pointed out: ‘Nigeria signed many treaties and has to report on how it is implementing and delivering on its obligations.’
The issued was raised on the show by Davis Mac-Iyalla, former director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, a group working to full inclusion of LGBT people in the west African nation.
He said: ‘I think the remarks she made were very impressive. I have never seen the UN make a comment as strongly as that before on an LGBT issue.
‘It will make a lot of difference. She made it very clear that Nigeria has signed a lot of treaties and they have to comply with those obligations.
‘The president might want to sign it to please the religious leaders on a purely political basis but, like the parliament, the president would be doing a great damage to his credibility if they do sign this kind of bill.’
Mac-Iyalla says signing the bill would damage Jonathan domestically as well as internationally because the majority of Nigerians don’t want the new law, just religious extremists.
Supporters of the legislation say they are protecting the country from same-sex marriage but LGBT campaigners insist no Nigerian gay rights organization or same-sex couple have actually requested marriage equality.
See the full BBC Pillay special here. The Nigeria question starts at 39 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUOBsVOG9Fp6kXK49fkOPYJQ&v=dMPvjai3yKM&feature=player_embedded#t=0s