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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Nigerian police arrests more than 60 people for involvement in gay wedding

More than 60 people were recently arrested and detained in connection with an alleged gay wedding in Nigeria

Nigeria has once again made headlines for its harsh stance on LGBTQ rights. More than 60 people were recently arrested and detained in connection with an alleged gay wedding, an act considered illegal in the country. The arrests have sparked international outrage and reignited the debate over Nigeria’s stringent laws and the broader implications for LGBTQ individuals across the continent.

The Arrests

On August 28, 2023, a group of individuals was apprehended in the southern city of Warri in Delta state following a tip about an alleged gay wedding. The police swiftly acted on this information, leading to the detention of numerous suspects. While the exact number of people remanded in prison was not disclosed, initial reports indicated that 67 individuals had been arrested.

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Legal Proceedings

After their arrest, the suspects were brought before a court in Warri, where the police requested their remand. The court granted the request, leading to a two-week remand period. Defence lawyer Ochuko Ohimor, representing 60 of the suspects, is working diligently to secure their release on bail. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for September 18, 2023.

Nigeria’s Anti-LGBTQ Laws

Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013 is at the heart of this controversy. This law not only prohibits same-sex marriage but also restricts the public display of same-sex relationships. Those found guilty of entering into a same-sex marriage or facilitating such unions can face up to 14 years in prison, while participants can be sentenced to 10 years.

Impact of the Law

The scope of Nigeria’s anti-LGBTQ law extends beyond its explicit provisions, creating a hostile environment for LGBTQ individuals and organizations. Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, notes that this legislation has a “stifling effect” on the LGBTQ community, making it one of the most significant arrests under the law.

International Outcry

Amnesty International’s Nigeria office swiftly condemned the arrests, calling for an “immediate end to this witch-hunt.” They argue that this law is increasingly being exploited for harassment, extortion, and blackmail. The international community has also voiced concerns, with Canada’s Global Affairs issuing a warning to LGBTQ travelers considering a visit to Nigeria, urging them to “carefully consider the risks.”

Broader Context

Nigeria is one of 32 African countries that criminalize homosexuality, joining the ranks of nations like Uganda, which even imposes the death penalty in some cases under its recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act. While Nigeria’s legislation does not prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality, there have been instances of people being sentenced to death in Sharia courts in the country’s predominantly Muslim northern states.

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The recent arrests in Nigeria serve as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals in many parts of the world. Nigeria’s strict anti-LGBTQ laws have far-reaching consequences, not only for those directly affected but also for the broader human rights and LGBTQ rights movements globally. As the world watches the legal proceedings unfold, the fate of those detained and the future of LGBTQ rights in Nigeria hang in the balance. The international community’s continued attention and advocacy are crucial in pushing for change and justice in this challenging landscape.