On Saturday, October 21, 76 people, including 59 men and 17 women, were arrested in northern Nigeria for attending an alleged LGBTQ+ birthday party where organisers were suspected of planning to host a same-sex wedding.
Buhari Saad, a spokesperson for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said, “We apprehended 76 suspected homosexuals at a birthday party organised by one of them who was due to marry his fiancé at the event.”
The arrests took place in Gombe State, a paramilitary organisation under the government where Islamic Sharia law can be applied alongside the federal and state judicial systems. Under Sharia law, homosexual relations can be punishable by death.
The NSCDC spokesperson refused to say under which law the suspects will be charged, but death penalties passed in Sharia courts must be approved by the state governor, and this punishment has never been enforced.
Those arrested were the latest targets of Nigeria’s 2014 Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act which bans gay marriage, same-sex relationships and membership of gay rights groups.
According to this legislation, people in same-sex relationships can face of up to 14 years in prison. In recent years, security forces have intimidated LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria and carried out numerous raids on gatherings where they suspect same-sex weddings are taking place.
In August, Nigerian police arrested dozens of people after raiding a gay wedding in the southern city of Warri. Those arrested were paraded before spectators and journalists before being released.
Similarly, last December, police arrested 19 young people for attending an alleged gay wedding in the centre of Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. The couple narrowly escaped and were able to flee the area before the arrests began. Those arrested were not charged and instead asked to “change their lifestyle” through “counselling.”
Amnesty International has condemned these raids saying: “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.”
Nicole Lee, Yahoo News
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