76 youths including 59 men and 17 women were arrested on Saturday, 21st October 2023 by Nigeria’s paramilitary on charges of organizing a gay wedding in north-east Nigeria, where such unions are criminalized and violence against the LGBT+ community is widespread.
Lawyers for those arrested could not comment immediately, but the arrest has been confirmed by the security forces.
“We apprehended 76 suspected homosexuals at a birthday party organized by one of them who was due to marry his fiancé at the event,” said Buhari Saad, the spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Gombe State, a paramilitary organization under the government.
Intimidation of the LGBT+ community is rife in Nigeria, and in recent years the security forces have carried out numerous raids on parties where they believe weddings are taking place. However, none of those arrested have been convicted.
14 YEARS IN PRISON: Same-sex marriage is illegal in Nigeria under a 2014 law, and punishable by 14 years in prison. In August, 2023 police arrested more than a hundred men in similar circumstances in south-east Nigeria.
The human rights organization Amnesty International has called for an end to this “witch-hunt”.
“In a society where corruption is endemic, the law prohibiting same-sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail by law enforcement officials and other members of the public”, it also condemned.
In December, 19 men and women in their twenties were arrested in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, by the Islamic police, known as Hisbah, on charges of organizing a gay wedding. The suspects were reprimanded and released without being brought to justice.
LGBTQIA+ PEOPLE’S PLIGHT IN NIGERIA & AFRICA: Gombe State, where the arrests took place on Saturday, is also one of the northern states with a Muslim majority where Islamic Sharia law is applied alongside the federal and state judicial systems.
Under Sharia law, homosexual relations are punishable by death. However, this sentence has never been applied in northern Nigeria. The NSCDC spokesman refused to say whether the suspects arrested on Saturday would be charged under Sharia law or ordinary law.
LGBTQIA+ people in Nigeria face severe challenges not experienced by non-LGBTQIA+ residents. LGBTQIA+ rights are generally infringed upon; homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria and punishable by up to 14 years of prison in the conventional court system. There is no legal protection for LGBTQIA+ rights in Nigeria – a largely conservative country of more than 225 million people, split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south. The same threats are evident in different African countries. In Uganda, President Museveni signed the new Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in on 26th May 2023.
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