Police in Nigeria’s Lagos, are expected to bring more than 40 men to court after they were arrested for alleged acts of homosexuality. The men were detained at a hotel in the Owode Onirin area, the Punch newspaper reports. Witnesses of the arrest who live in the area claimed that the hotel has been known to “harbor homosexuals”.
If found guilty, the accused could face up to 14 years in jail as it is illegal and criminal to be gay and form same sex unions in Nigeria especially after penalties were increased in a 2013 law.
Under the law, people who enter any form of same-sex union are liable for 14 years’ imprisonment, while people who “witness, abet and aide the solemnization of a same sex marriage or civil union” can face up to 10 years in jail.
Earlier this year 53 people faced criminal charges as police claimed that they had attended a same-sex wedding, 45 of whom jumped bail and warrants were put out for their arrest.
Defence lawyer Yunusa Umar said most of the accused were students, and claimed they had been celebrating a birthday and not a same-sex union.
There is a hard-wearing social taboo around homosexuality in Nigeria, driven by a strong anti-LGBT evangelical Christian movement in the south and the spread of hardline Islam in the north. Northern states under Sharia – Islamic religious law – actually utilize the death penalty for people convicted of same-sex offences.
Human rights groups say the 2013 Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act has been exploited to target the LGBT community. In fact a recent Human Rights Watch report stated: “While existing legislation already criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct in Nigeria, the report found that the SSMPA, in many ways, officially authorizes abuses against LGBT people, effectively making a bad situation worse. The passage of the SSMPA was immediately followed by extensive media reports of high levels of violence, including mob attacks and extortion against LGBT people.”