Human rights advocates in Nigeria have said that dozens of gay men have already been arrested in the country, even before an anti-gay law signed by the president yesterday, has been enacted.

Activists in northern Nigeria said that dozens of gay men had already been arrested, but that such persecution would increase since the law was signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The internationally condemned law, now nicknamed the “Jail the Gays” law, was signed by President Jonathan some time earlier this month.

The executive director of the International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights Dorothy Aken’Ova, said on Tuesday that the new law would endanger lives, and that it would even criminalise programs fighting HIV and AIDS.

She said the police in the state of Bauchi have a list of 168 men assumed to be gay, out of which 38 have already been arrested.

Under the terms of the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be jailed for up to 14 years, and all such unions entered into abroad are made “void”.

It also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship will be punishable with up to ten years in prison.

“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.