GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A Nigerian law criminalizing same-sex unions is a "draconian" measure that punishes people for displaying affection, the U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday.
"This draconian new law makes an already-bad situation much worse," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.
A measure signed into law by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in early January calls for a 14-year prison term for anyone entering into a same-sex union and a 10-year prison term for those administering or witnessing a same-sex marriage or civil union ceremony.
"It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more," Pillay said in a statement. "It turns anyone who takes part in, witnesses or helps organize a same sex marriage into a criminal."
A spokesman for the Nigerian president was quoted by the BBC as saying the law was in line with people's cultural and religious principles.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the law is a violation of basic civil liberties.
"Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians," he said.