More than 60 people are in jail in Nigeria in connection with an alleged gay wedding last week, which is illegal in the country, the police and their lawyer said on Monday.
The court granted a remand request from the police following a hearing on Monday in the southern city of Warri in Delta state, where the suspects were arrested on Aug. 28 following a tip.
“The suspects have been arraigned in court today and the judge has ruled that they be remanded in prison for two weeks,” Delta state police said in a statement. It did not say how many had been remanded, but police last week said 67 people had been arrested.
Defence lawyer Ochuko Ohimor, who is representing 60 suspects, said that while the next hearing will come up on Sept. 18, he is working to get bail for the suspects.
He put the total number of those remanded at 69, adding they are facing charges connected to allegations that they were celebrating a gay wedding.
“All we are doing now is to bring up bail applications on their behalf … if it is found meritorious it [the court] can admit them to bail. The bail application can come before the expiration of the 14-day remand order,” he said.
Broad law targeting LGBTQ people
Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in 2013 made it it illegal for same-sex individuals to marry, but it also restricts the public display of same-sex relationships, punishing anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union with 14 years in prison and a 10-year sentence for anyone who facilitates or takes part in any such union.
But the scope of the Nigerian law goes well beyond its very specific wording, he said, explaining that it has a “stifling effect” on LGBTQ organizations and individual activities, Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an interview with CBC News on August 28.
“There have been arrests in the past but his does seem to be one of the most significant arrests under the law,” he said.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria office condemned last week’s arrests and called for “an immediate end to this witch-hunt.”
“In a society where corruption is rampant, this [same-sex] law banning same sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people,” Isa Sanusi, the organization’s director in Nigeria, told The Associated Press last week.
Nigeria is one of 32 countries in Africa that criminalize homosexuality — including Uganda, which can impose the death penalty in some cases under it recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Although the Nigerian government’s legislation does not impose the death penalty for homosexuality, there have been people sentenced to death in Sharia courts in predominantly Muslim states in the country’s north.
Three men arrested in the state of Bauchi in June 2022 were ordered to be stoned to death for engaging in homosexuality. Sharia court sentences must be approved by a state governor, and it’s unclear if the sentence was carried out.
Global Affairs Canada warns LGBTQ travellers to Nigeria to “carefully consider the risks” of visiting the country.
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