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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters

ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill on Monday that criminalizes same-sex relationships, defying pressure from Western governments to respect gay and lesbian rights.

The bill, which bans gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships," membership in gay rights groups and contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison, was passed by the national assembly last May, but Jonathan had delayed signing it into law.

Two similar bills have been proposed since 2006 but failed to make it through parliament.

As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular. Jonathan is expected to seek re-election in 2015 but is under pressure after several dozen lawmakers and a handful of regional governors defected to the opposition in the past two months.

Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but this bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexuals and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence.

— Reuters