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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: A tragic loss for AIDS advocacy, research

Zuma Press

AIDS researchers and advocates are used to dealing with death, they say, but that hasn't made the last 48 hours any easier.


An estimated 12,000 scientists, medical workers, advocates and policymakers are traveling to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia — a “mega event” for their field — amid the grim news that dozens of their colleagues, including a top researcher, were killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.


The loss is certain to cast a shadow over the conference, members of the community said, calling the blow immeasurable and tragic.


“It's like a train has gone off the track,” said Terri Ford, chief of global advocacy and policy for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who arrived in Melbourne on Thursday. “It's hard to absorb what has happened.”


Confirmation of the names of the dead rolled in slowly, but by Friday, the conference attendees knew they had lost at least one superstar.


Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society and a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Amsterdam whose leadership spanned the history of the epidemic, was confirmed among the dead.


In addition to Lange, a colleague, Jacqueline van Tongeren of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, was confirmed among those who perished; as was Glenn Thomas, 49, a spokesman for the World Health Organization. Both were headed to the AIDS conference.


The International AIDS Society late Friday confirmed the names of three more colleagues who were aboard Flight 17: Pim de Kuijer of Stop AIDS Now, and Lucie van Mens and Maria Adriana de Schutter, both of AIDS Action Europe.


Investigators were still sorting through lists to identify all 298 passengers and crew members who died when the Boeing 777 was shot down Thursday over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Malaysia. The U.S. has said it appears pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists were responsible.


More than half of the victims were identified as Dutch, and one had dual American-Dutch citizenship.


They came from 10 countries and included scientists, amateur athletes, tourists and passengers heading home.


President Obama on Friday identified the only known American citizen on the downed plane as Quinn Lucas Schansman, who also had Dutch citizenship. Another passenger with American connections, Karlijn Keijzer, 25, of Amsterdam, was a doctoral student in chemistry at Indiana University and an avid rower.


Obama singled out the AIDS group as a special loss.


“On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV,” he said.


“These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.”


“In this world today, we shouldn't forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these — people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed; people who are focused on how they can help people that they've never met; people who define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common,” Obama said. “It's important for us to lift them up and to affirm their lives. And it's time for us to heed their example.”


AIDS researchers and advocates echoed his sentiments, calling the impact on their field “unquantifiable” and the loss of Lange particularly so.


Lange was best known for participating in work in the 1990s that helped discover the effect of combination therapy, the uses of multiple drugs to suppress HIV, which causes AIDS.


Today, millions of people around the world take a variety of antiretroviral medications in such drug cocktails to help keep the virus at bay.


Before such therapies were available, “AIDS was a death sentence,” said Thomas Coates, an expert on HIV prevention who directs the UCLA Center for World Health.


More recently, Lange's work had focused on improving access to HIV medication to disadvantaged populations around the world.


“His loss is more than just a summary of his efforts and his papers,” said Columbia University professor of medicine Scott Hammer, an advisor to several of Lange's projects. “He was not shy about speaking truth to power. He spoke softly and carried a lot of moral heft. He was equally compassionate, and driven for his mission.”


Hammer and other scientists said, however, that until it becomes clear who else was on the plane, it would be hard to assess the incident's broader impacts.


“It's hard to know what it means for the field,” said Dr. H. Clifford Lane, deputy director for clinical research and special projects for the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “But typically at these meetings, we try to have the senior leaders and the leaders of the next generation. If some of the members of that next generation were on that plane, it's extraordinarily devastating.”


He added that he believed the tragedy would inspire remaining researchers, health workers and advocates to reexamine their goals, “remember what they've lost, and do their best to honor [colleagues'] memories.”


AIDS researchers and advocates who knew Lange said they remained anxious, awaiting further word on other colleagues who might have been on the flight.


Harvard School of Public Health professor Richard Marlink said he had spoken by phone with associates who were in Melbourne for the conference. They reported that “everyone is shocked and saddened, and the air is quiet, and small memorial signs are starting to appear,” he said.


Times staff writers Christine Mai-Duc and Maya Srikrishnan contributed to this report.

By Eryn Brown, Michael Muskal



Health experts call for integrated approach to HIV and TB in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe is facing challenges in eliminating tuberculosis (TB) say health experts, who are calling for much greater integration of HIV and TB programmes within the healthcare system.


Tremendous progress has been made in minimising the spread of HIV while TB programming is weak in comparison, according to Michael Bartos, UNAIDS country director for Zimbabwe.


Strengthening coordination systems

Bartos told a recent workshop for Zimbabwean civil society organisations that there was an urgent need to strengthen coordinating systems across HIV, TB and malaria. The workshop was run by AIDS Accountability International in partnership with Southern Africa AIDS Trust and Zimbabwe AIDS network.


“We need, as civil society, to enhance HIV mobilisation to support TB. There is weak mobilisation of communities where it matters. The issue of resources also needs to be addressed if we are to succeed in eliminating the spread of TB,” Bartos said.


Civil society priorities

At the workshop, representatives from various HIV groups created a priorities charter as an ‘advocacy road map’ for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. The top priority was the need for a coordinating mechanism for HIV and TB, according to Dr Gemma Oberth, senior researcher at AIDS Accountability International.


“This is because HIV coordinating structures are disproportionately strong, compared with TB civil society networks,” Dr Oberth said.


Some of the priorities identified include prevention, treatment, advocacy, care and support, mitigation and stigma reduction.


Increase in new TB cases

Zimbabwe is ranked 17 among the 22 countries in the world worst affected by TB, according to a research project commissioned by the World Health Organisation.


Victoria James, director of New Dimension Consulting, which carried out the research, said: “The estimated incidence of new TB cases was 633 per 100,000 in 2010 compared to 97 per 100,000 in 1990, reflecting a growing trend. Seventy-five per cent of adult TB cases are reported to be HIV co-infected, while HIV testing in TB is 97 per cent. The treatment rate is very low and civil society needs to focus more on playing a role to address the issues.”


She also highlighted some concerns involving new TB diagnoses, which are reported to have increased from 35,340 in 2013 to 38,725 in 2012.


Lack of resources

According to Dr Charles Sandy, deputy director of AIDS and TB programmes at the Ministry of Health and Child Care, TB is managed through the routine health system. The government is faced with the challenge of a lack of resources, although it collaborates with local and international partners.


“We are dependent on the health delivery system for success of the TB programme. Although we have made some progress in trying to address TB, we are facing challenges of a demotivated health workforce and lack of optimum work performance,” Dr Sandy said.


He added that community awareness in addressing TB was low and more resources were needed to address the challenges. Sandy said the government worked with civil society organisations through the Country Coordinating Mechanism and invited them to make suggestions on how they could be more involved.


Image: Emmanuel Gasa, a young HIV/AIDS activist working within the civil society and attending workshop, Zimbabwe
© Wallace Mawire


Read the Zimbabwe Civil Society Priorities Charter


By Wallace Mawire

7 May 2014


Discrimination without Distinction of Any Kind?

Snapshot of African civil society demands versus Addis Ababa Declaration

Addis Declaration

This paper is a snapshot comparative analysis of the Civil Society African Common Position on International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the official Addis Ababa Declaration. It provides a brief examination of the differences and similarities between these two documents, which were both produced during the African ICPD review process. It also seeks to examine where the Addis Declaration fell short of CSO demands and then whether country positions on human rights commitments such as the Maputo Protocol affected their position on the Addis Declaration.  This paper seeks to provide a snapshot of some of the obvious gaps in human, sexual and LGBT rights and accountability between what civil society demanded and what the Addis outcome provided.  Discrimination without distinction of any kind Munyati and Tucker

Malawi to prioritise gender-based messages in response to HIV and TB.


In Malawi, a new civil society charter to tackle HIV and TB is prioritising gender-based messages to help change people’s behaviour.


Malawi is the third country to set up such a charter in response to the Global Fund’s new funding model.


Working with men


According to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey, data shows that in 2013 men were disproportionately likely to report having more than one sexual partner (9.2%) compared to women (0.7%).


To address this, non-governmental organisations well placed to promote community dialogue and carry out activities involving theatre for development, role models, and working with families, schools and churches.


The primary target group for such activities is men, but there will also be a focus on raising awareness of the risks of having multiple sexual partners with girls and young women.


Civil society intends to measure the impact of this activity through an increased number of men testing for HIV, men who seek circumcision, couples testing together and men using condoms.


Empowerment of women and girls


Poverty greatly affects the ability of young women to make choices about their behaviour. The charter prioritizes a two-pronged strategy to support young women through access to information and economic empowerment.


This means combatting issues of early child marriage, gender-based violence and transactional sex, which are all shown to be related to poverty and the economic circumstances of young women. Civil society organisations supporting the charter intend to scale up activities relating to village savings and loans associations for women.


This work will focus on young women aged 15 to 24. The charter has identified border towns and some lakeshore towns as hot spots where support for affected communities are needed and where impact will be greatest.


The impact of this activity will be measured in the short-term through the number of women engaged in village savings and loans schemes and fewer child marriages, and in the longer term through bylaws restricting child marriages.


Condom promotion


In Malawi, 80% of new HIV infections occur among partners in stable relationships (National AIDS Commission, 2012). This can be explained, in part, by negative perceptions about condom use within long-term relationships.


Work to address this issue will focus on rural women, as the issue of gender norms and power imbalances make it difficult for women to negotiate or introduce condom use within their relationship, especially the female condom.


The charter recommends the activities to be carried out in remote rural areas, as a three year programme from May 2014 – May 2017 with gathering people to sensitize on condom promotion, media reporting, education and communication campaigns, peer education as some of the activities.


One of the ways in which civil society will measure impact of this intervention will be through monitoring the number of rural women using the female condom.


Availability and accessibility


Condom use is higher in urban areas than it is in rural regions of Malawi and this can be partially explained by the fact that health centres and hospitals are some of the only places where condoms can be accessed in rural areas, yet evidence shows bottle stores are much more popular places to get condoms, especially among groups most at risk of HIV such as sex workers (FPAM & UNFPA, 2011).


Civil society intends to increase condom distribution points and lobby different community and religious leaders around accepting use of condoms. It will also pair access to condoms with lubricants, particularly for key populations such as men who have sex with men. A three year programme is expected to start from 2014 up to 2017, with focus on marginalised people such as rural women and people with disabilities.


Key populations


There is a need to scale up existing programmes targeting groups most at risk of HIV. Creating demand for health services among such populations is a high priority because data shows HIV prevalence among sex workers in Malawi is 70.7% (National AIDS Commission, 2012) and 15.4% among men who have sex with men (“HIV among men who have sex with men in Malawi” Wirtz et al., 2013).


Civil society is best placed to access people most at risk of HIV through peer education and outreach work. The target group will be primarily men who have sex with men and sex workers, though prisoners are also identified as a key population in this context, especially in connection to their vulnerability to TB. People with disabilities and refugees were also identified.


The outcome will be measured by reductions in HIV prevalence and increases in health seeking behaviour among key populations.


CLICK HERE to view the Malawi Civil society Priorities Charter


Image: Members of the market theatre group perform an HIV awareness drama to village members, Chipemberemchere, Malawi
© Nell Freeman for International HIV/AIDS Alliance
By Owen Nyaka
April 23. 2014


African civil society needs to improve strategizing and organizing



It became clear from discussions at the 6th ACSHR that CSOs on the continent need to organise themselves better in order to gain meaningful and effective outcomes on ICPD at country level and during Regional Conferences. A need for CSO mapping in the continent was also expressed so as to give an indication of what the different CSOs are working on as well as to identify areas for collaboration. The lack of research and documentation of good practices was cited as a gap in that if addressed would help strengthen the work that CSOs are doing. CSOs called for government accountability and transparency in ensuring CSO inclusion in government platforms and processes pertaining to ICPD.


AIDS Accountability International (AAI) participated at the 6th ACSHR held in Cameroon –Yauonde on 03-07 February, 2014, the theme of which was “Eliminating Women and Girls Sexual Reproductive Health vulnerabilities in Africa”.


ICPD beyond 2014 and Post 2015 with specific focus on the roles for CSOs in Africa


The following issues were raised by AAI during the above plenary session and led to lively and constructive debate:


·         CSO role at country level, regional level and global level- overall role for CSOs: Opportunities and barriers;

·         Relationship between national governments and CSOs was discussed with specific attention paid to the lack of this relationship at country level and the impact thereof on implementation and sustainability of the ICPD goals;

·         Government Accountability: The need for government to create spaces and systems to enable CSO engagement with government on ICPD; and

·         Way forward: How do CSOs begin to organise themselves in influencing country positions, especially from the countries that had reservations in the adoption of the Addis Declaration in October 2013 during the ARCPD as part of the preparations for CPD 47to be held in New York from 04-07 April, 2014.


Intergenerational Youth Dialogue on ICPD beyond 2014 and Post 2015


AAI facilitated this discussion which mainly focused on youth engagement on the following:

·         Challenges faced by the youth in the continent

·         Responses needed for implementation in order to address youth challenges and their needs pertaining to the goals of ICPD and the Post 2015 developmental agenda.

·         The youth at this discussion came from the different CSOS in the continent and other delegates in attendance were from intergovernmental agencies – UNFPA , CSOs from Africa and different multi-sectors as well as implementing partners.


Outcomes of the discussion were that a need for a youth stand – alone goal was identified in order to address the youth needs in a more effective manner going forward to the Post 2015 agenda. A call was made by the youth for governments and other role payers to include them in discussions and decisions that seek to respond to their needs. The conference in its entirety provided a good networking platform for CSOs in the continent as well as a space for sharing and dissemination information. 


Civil Society in Malawi emphasize rural women and LGBT as national priorities


On 13 February 2014, AIDS Accountability International hosted a workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi for civil society organizations to come together and create a set of priorities for the Global Fund New Funding Model. Gathering at the Sunbird Capital Hotel, 45 participants from 37 partner organizations worked in collaboration to create the Malawi Civil Society Priorities Charter.


Delegates traveled from Blantyre, Chitipa, Karonga, Mchinji, Mzuzu, Nkhotakota, rural Ntcheu, Ntchisi, Thyolo and Zomba to advocate on behalf of their constituencies. Organizations present included those that represent people who are marginalized by their sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI), sex workers, people living with HIV, women, young girls, youth, the TB community, people with disabilities, the faith-based community and academic institutions, among others.  


At the top of civil society’s priority list were behaviour change interventions, particularly those that involve gender targeted messages and economic empowerment for young women and girls. Also topping the list were priorities which aimed to improve acceptability of condom use in relationships, especially the use of the female condom in rural areas.


Key populations, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), also received consensus from the room as one of civil society’s top priorities for Malawi’s Global Fund programming in 2014. Civil society brought the latest evidence to bare (December 2013), demonstrating the significantly increased risk of HIV infection among MSM in Malawi, as well as sex workers.


Click here to read Malawi’s Civil Society Priorities Charter.  

UN Envoy for AIDS in Africa Must Go


Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We write to you out of deep concern regarding Ms. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. In the wake of Uganda’s passage of a law criminalizing homosexuality, Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe’s reprehensible silence, and her ongoing position as a senior advisor to President Museveni, threaten to undermine the credibility and independence of the United Nations. We urge you to terminate her position as Special Envoy and appoint an impartial advocate for the rights of all Africans.

As you are aware, President Museveni of Uganda signed a bill into law this week that institutionalizes discrimination and punishes homosexual relationships with life imprisonment. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay denounced the law as a violation of “a host of fundamental human rights” that “will have a negative impact on efforts to prevent transmission and provide treatment for people living with HIV.” Through your spokesperson, you indicated that you shared these views and are “seriously concerned” about the negative impact of the new law.

In the weeks and months after Parliament voted in favor of the destructive, retrograde bill, Uganda’s LGBT and HIV activists mobilized a massive effort by advocates, organizations, and leaders from around the world appealing to President Museveni to withhold his signature. Yet amidst the chorus of condemnation, and in the face of the profound damage this law will cause to HIV service provision throughout Uganda and the continent, Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe lurked in the shadows, never using the public platform given her by the United Nations. No speeches were made and no press statements were given. In fact, we understand that when asked to intervene on behalf of a prominent gay Ugandan seeking asylum in South Africa, Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe privately asserted that she could not, because there is no proof that gay activists in Uganda are being persecuted. In the hours since then, a major newspaper in the country has published a long list of Ugandans who are open about or “suspected of” being gay. Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe’s public silence throughout speaks volumes.

Mr. Secretary-General, your chosen messenger’s failure to denounce her president’s odious actions and stand up for the rights of LGBT living at risk of and affected by HIV casts a pall over the United Nations. It impugns the impartiality and credibility of the office of Special Envoy. If her position as special advisor to President Museveni precludes such a public stance, then she must leave that government role immediately. If she refuses to resign, then you must divest her of her UN role. Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe’s split loyalty presents an obvious conflict of interest that has damaged her credibility. Continued inaction by your office risks damaging yours as well.


Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis
Co-Directors, AIDS-Free World

Download this statement as a PDF.

Media contacts:

Christina Magill

26 February 2014


Keep Calm: African CSO Post 2015 Coalition Advocacy Strategy Meeting.

AIDS Accountability International Africa CSO Coalition Post 2015 10AIDS Accountability International Africa CSO Coalition Post 2015 6


The International Conference on Population and Development, Commission on the Status of Women and the Post 2015 Development Agenda review processes are all important opportunities for African civil society to influence the future development agenda.


In the Africa review process of the ICPD, SDGs and CSW (that resulted in several continental positions on the post 2015 development agenda) it became clear that is civil society requires better collective organization and strategizing to perform effective advocacy. This needs to happen both at country and regional level so as to ensure the greater inclusion of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the outcomes of these processes.


Countries will be committing to their new positions in New York (NYC) this year and the sole remaining opportunity available to civil society is to affect the position of each African country prior to their vote.


As a means to affect these country positions AAI will be leading the African CSO Post 2015 Coalition which is intended to ensure that African civil society works strategically for the best outcomes. We will thus be holding a meeting in Johannesburg in March/April (date to be confirmed) that will map out the position of countries in Africa with regard to their position on SRHR, and we will plan as a group how we can affect the outcomes in NYC.


We are looking for a particular set of people at this meeting, so if think you fit the criteria, or know someone who does, nominate them to Read more about the meeting, and the criteria click here.

Wielding Whip and a Hard New Law, Nigeria Tries to ‘Sanitize’ Itself of Gays.

A bailiff in Bauchi, in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria, re-enacted the lashing of a man convicted of homosexuality. Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times

BAUCHI, Nigeria — The young man cried out as he was being whipped on the courtroom bench. The bailiff’s leather whip struck him 20 times, and when it was over, the man’s side and back were covered with bruises.

Still, the large crowd outside was disappointed, the judge recalled: The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning.

“He is supposed to be killed,” the judge, Nuhu Idris Mohammed, said, praising his own leniency on judgment day last month at the Shariah court here. The bailiff demonstrated the technique he used: whip at shoulder level, then forcefully down.

The mood is unforgiving in this north Nigeria metropolis, where nine others accused of being gay by the Islamic police are behind the central prison’s high walls. Stones and bottles rained down on them outside the court two weeks ago, residents and officials said; some in the mob even wanted to set the courtroom ablaze, witnesses said.

Since Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished.

Gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, but convictions were rare in the south and only occasional in the mostly Muslim north. The new law bans same-sex marriage and goes significantly further, prescribing 10 years in prison for those who “directly or indirectly” make a “public show” of same-sex relationships. It also punishes anyone who participates in gay clubs and organizations, or who simply supports them, leading to broad international criticism of the sweep of the law.

“This draconian new law makes an already-bad situation much worse,” the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said in a statement. “It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more,” she added. “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.”

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 African countries, according to Amnesty International, and carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, as well as Shariah-governed northern Nigeria. Recently Uganda’s president declined to sign a bill that carried a life sentence for gays, though he called them sick. In Senegal, where the press regularly “outs” gays, same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years.

Rights advocates say they have recorded arrests in multiple Nigerian states, but the country’s north has experienced the toughest crackdown. Mr. Jonathan’s national ban has redoubled the zeal against gay people here and elsewhere, according to officials and residents in Bauchi, where Shariah law prevails and green-uniformed Hisbah, or Islamic police officers, search for what is considered immoral under Islam.

“It’s reawakened interest in communities to ‘sanitize,’ more or less, to talk about ‘moral sanitization,’ ” Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said of the law. “Where it was quiet before, it’s gotten people thinking, ‘Who is behaving in a manner that may be gay?’ It’s driven people into the closet.”

Officials here in Bauchi say they want to root out, imprison and punish gays. Local lawyers are reluctant to represent them. Bail was refused to the gay people already jailed because it was “in the best interests of the accused,” said the chief prosecutor, Dawood Mohammed. In the streets, furious citizens say they are ready to take the law into their own hands to combat homosexuality.


Officials are also inflamed. “It is detestable,” said Mohammed Tata, a senior official with the Shariah Commission here, which controls the Hisbah. He added: “This thing is an abomination.”




Tahir is one of the few supporters of men awaiting trial in Bauchi after being accused of being gay. Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times

Complaining of the difficulty in distinguishing gay people from others, Mr. Tata said: “They don’t do it in the open. You get one or two, you see how they speak, you see how they dress, then you might have reasonable grounds to suspect.” Mr. Tata, speaking in the whitewashed two-story Shariah Commission headquarters here, said that happily, “we get information from sources interested in seeing the society cleansed.”

The prisoners’ only local support comes from two gay activists who slip into and out of the area, not daring to stay overnight. “They started crying when they saw us, begging us to take them out of this place,” said one of the activists, Tahir, 26, after returning from the prison, where he and his friend Bala, 29, had taken the men food. The two activists feared being prosecuted themselves, so they said they were relatives of the prisoners to try to avoid suspicion.

Most of the prisoners have been abandoned by their families, Tahir said, declining to give his last name for fear of reprisals. They are mostly young men, he said — tailors, students, “just working youths.” One is a married school principal with eight children, four of them adopted.

The young man who was whipped has gone into hiding. Inside the prison, the guards mock the gay men, comparing them to “pregnant women,” Bala said.

At a downtown restaurant in Bauchi, under suspicious glances from other patrons, Bala said, “Let us leave this place.” Hurriedly concluding the interview, the two left for a town farther south and not under Shariah law. “We are not safe here,” Bala said.

His words were borne out by the mood on the street. “God has not allowed this thing; we are not animals,” said Umar Inuwa Obi, 32, a student who said he was in the mob that hurled stones and bottles at the court and the prison van transporting the gay suspects two weeks ago.

“In Shariah court you are supposed to kill the man,” Mr. Obi said, adding that he favored this judgment. “But the government has refused. That’s why they started throwing stones and bottles.”

A Shariah police officer at a court proceeding last month in the city. Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times




Frightened, the judge retreated to his chambers, the van forced its way through the crowd and gunshots were fired to disperse it.

“People are out to kill,” said Abdullahi Yalwa, a sociologist who teaches at a Bauchi college.

“The stones increased,” said Musa Kandi, a lawyer who briefly represented one of the men on his bail application. “They wanted to have those people, so they could kill them.”

Civil authorities here, handed the case by the Hisbah, say the suspects have been charged with a very serious crime. “They had been meeting among themselves, which is quite prohibited — religiously prohibited, socially unacceptable and morally wrong,” said Mr. Mohammed, the chief prosecutor.

In the prison, the men are separated from other prisoners, not for their protection, but “so that they should not indoctrinate the other inmates,” said Mr. Mohammed’s deputy, Dayyabu Ayuba, who is handling the case.

Officials and activists here agree that the new law signed by President Jonathan has given added impetus to the country’s anti-gay sentiment, encouraging prosecutors and citizens alike to take action. The law “completely prohibited anything that is gay,” Mr. Mohammed said.

The Nigerian news media have been largely supportive of the law — “Are Gay People Similar to Animals?” was the headline on a recent op-ed article in a leading newspaper, The Guardian — and government officials have reacted angrily to criticism from the United States and Britain.

The acting foreign affairs minister, Viola Onwuliri, recently praised the law as “democracy in action,” and suggested that Western critics were hypocrites to promote democracy and then complain about a law that the populace supports. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last March, 98 percent of Nigerians said they do not believe society should accept homosexuality.

“Every culture has what they regard as sacrosanct or important to them, and I don’t believe what our president and lawmakers have done in that respect is contrary to our culture,” former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Thursday in an interview. In 2004, while he was president, he told African bishops that “homosexual practice” was “clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African.”

For gay Nigerians, the risks of coming out could not be higher. “In the north, you will be killed,” Tahir said. “You will bring total shame to your family.”

Correction: February 10, 2014
An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified the person re-enacting the lashing of a man convicted of homosexuality. He was a bailiff, not a judge.