LAGOS, Nigeria — A new law in Nigeria, signed by the president without announcement, has made it illegal for gay people to even hold a meeting. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act also criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations and organizations, with penalties of up to 14 years in jail.

The act has drawn international condemnation from countries such as the United States and Britain.

Some Nigerian gays already have fled the country because of intolerance of their sexual persuasion, and more are considering leaving if the new law is enforced, human rights activist Olumide Makanjuola said recently.

Nigeria’s law is not as draconian as a Ugandan bill passed by parliament last month which would punish “aggravated” homosexual acts with life in prison. It awaits the president’s signature.

But Nigeria’s law reflects a highly religious and conservative society that considers homosexuality a deviation. Nigeria is one of 38 African countries that have laws persecuting gay people, according to Amnesty International.

It was unclear why the law’s passage has been shrouded in secrecy. A copy obtained from the House of Representatives in the Nigerian capital, showed it was signed by lawmakers and senators unanimously on Dec. 17, though no announcement was made. The motivation for the law is unclear, given that the country already has one making homosexual sex illegal.