Nigerian authorities apprehended over 60 individuals following a same-sex wedding ceremony. This mass detention underscores the prevailing intolerance towards homosexuality in the West African nation.
The incident occurred in Ekpan town, located in the southern Delta state, where police took action against the “gay suspects” during the early hours of Monday.
As per Bright Edafe, the state police spokesperson, the detainees were taken into custody at an event where two individuals were married. Edafe expressed unequivocal opposition to homosexuality, stressing that such behavior would not be tolerated in Nigeria. The country’s legal framework, specifically the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act enacted in 2013, imposes strict penalties on same-sex relationships.
Under this law, individuals can face up to 14 years in prison, while accomplices may be sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria office condemned the arrests, labeling them as a “witch-hunt.” The organization called for an immediate cessation of such actions, pointing out that the anti-LGBTQ+ law is sometimes exploited for harassment and extortion. Isa Sanusi, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria, criticized the misuse of the law, particularly in a society grappling with widespread corruption.
Delta state police, acting on information about the gay wedding, raided a hotel in Ekpan where the event was taking place. Initially detaining 200 people, authorities later narrowed down the number to 67 following preliminary investigations.
The detainees were showcased at a police station, where Edafe reiterated the sentiment that same-sex expression runs counter to Nigeria’s cultural norms and values.
Edafe emphasized that the police force cannot remain passive when it comes to open displays of same-sex orientation. He reiterated that the suspects would face legal charges once the investigation concludes. A live broadcast of the detainees’ presentation by the police showcased diverse accounts. One detainee claimed that he was not attending the wedding, but was at the hotel for a different engagement. Another detainee denied identifying as gay and stated he was apprehended while on his way to a fashion event.
This incident has fueled criticism from activists who accuse the Nigerian police of misusing the same-sex prohibition law to carry out large-scale arrests, sometimes even involving heterosexual individuals.
The international community has also taken note of Nigeria’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights. The nation joins a growing list of African countries, including Uganda, that have introduced legislation criminalizing same-sex relationships. Uganda’s new law, which includes the possibility of the death penalty in certain cases, has further intensified global debates on LGBTQ+ rights in Africa.