47 gay men on trial in Nigeria for offence of same-sex affection
This week, 47 men have gone on trial in Nigeria. The offence that they’re charged with is public displays of affection with members of the same sex – an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.
The Guardian reports that the accused men were among 57 arrested in a police raid on a hotel in Lagos in 2018. The accused men all pleaded innocent at a hearing last month. The police allege that the men present at the hotel were being initiated into a gay club, while the accused maintain that they were there to attend a birthday party.
LGBTQ spokespeople say that the case is an important test of a law banning gay marriage and same-sex relationships, which came into force in 2014.
“People have been detained, men and women, at different gatherings but no cases had ever gone before a judge…” explained Xeenarh Mohammed, the executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights. “We have to establish that people have a right to meet that shouldn’t be a crime under any law in any country.”
“Police officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names…” said Smart Joel, one of the defendants, speaking before last month’s hearing. “I just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible.”
The trial is expected to last for several months. The first phase will be focused on the prosecution making their case against the accused men.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people in Nigeria?
Is it legal to be gay?
It is illegal to be gay in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a socially conservative country, split between the Muslim north and the Christian south.
In the northern states of Nigeria, Shari’a law has been adopted and the punishment for same-sex sexual activity is death by stoning.
In the southern states, the maximum penalty for same-sex sexual activity is 14 years imprisonment.
Is there anti-discrimination legislation in place?
There is no protection for LGBTQ people. The major political parties are overtly hostile to LGBTQ people.
Is there marriage equality?
There is a specific piece of legislation that criminalises all forms of same-sex relationships – it’s called the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
What’s it like for LGBTQ people who live there?
Nigeria is widely recognised as one of the world’s most homophobic and aggressively anti-gay countries in the world.
A report by the Bisi Alimi Foundation found that LGBTQ people in Nigeria feel isolated, lonely, and afraid. 55% of respondents said they had been physically or sexually attacked or threatened with violence, either at home or in their workplace. 54% said they had experienced online harassment and threats.
How you can help
Find ways to help publicise the stories and experiences of LGBTQ people in Nigeria.
Use your networks to raise awareness of the challenges faced by LGBTQ people in Nigeria.
Lobby your political representatives to raise concerns regarding Nigeria’s criminalisation of same-sex sexual activities through any available diplomatic channels.