Nigerian Catholics have described a law banning same-sex marriage as “a right step in the right direction for the protection of the dignity of the human person”.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed the law banning same-sex marriage, public displays of homosexuality, and gay groups in January.

According to The Telegraph, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria recently called the act “‘courageous,” despite pressure from human rights groups.

The Conference made the comments in a congratulatory to Mr Jonathan on behalf of the Bishops by the President of the Conference, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos.

The letter reads: “Your decision and that of your administration in conjunction with the Federal Legislature, not to bow to international pressure in the promotion of unethical and immoral practices of same sex union and other related vices is indeed a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage and protection of the dignity of the human person.

“We commend you for this courageous and wise decision and pray that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.”

John Smeaton, director of the UK-based Society of the Unborn Child, agreed with the Archbishop’s comments on his website, writing that “standing up against the worldwide homosexual agenda is crucial for the protection of children.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last year condemned Nigeria’s Parliament for passing the law.

Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is a tragic day for human rights in Nigeria. It is a backward step that gravely intensifies the already existing harsh anti-gay laws in Nigeria, which were inherited from the era of British colonial rule.”

Under the terms of the 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.